Most educators are routine oriented which in the classroom is a necessity. Routines bring us predictability and comfort. My classroom planning was also routine. I remember spending the majority of my Sundays planning for the week and getting annoyed and almost panicky when I had a social event interfere with my Sunday planning. Once I had a child, I had to adapt and as I gained experience I realized that I was planning way more than was needed and had no flexibility in my program for arising student needs or interest. I became involved in Instructional Rounds for Assessment for Learning with my school board and began to intentionally plan with the support of colleagues. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on my practice and to have feedback with educators that shared the same growth mindset. It shook my teaching world at the foundation and rejuvenated me as an educator.
It is easy to operate in a silo in education. You can close your door, stay in your classroom and go directly to your car after school. I don’t recommend teaching that way. Not only will you burn out quickly, but your teaching practice will stagnate and you won’t have much work-life balance. Plan with a colleague. Make the time.
Yesterday I was able to plan with an NTIP teacher as her mentor. She teaches Kindergarten. I haven’t taught Kindergarten in almost 20 years so it was professional learning for both of us. There is a perception that Kindergarten is incredibly different from the other elementary grades but when you plan intentionally for inquiry, you are thinking like a Kindergarten teacher. Within a few hours we had planned overall expectations and specific learning activities for guiding the students through inquiry connecting literacy to coding and robotics. We started with clustering Kindergarten Curriculum expectations from all four areas, decided specifically what to look for in the learning, what to do in order to help those students that might struggle and what evidence would be collected to document student learning. This isn’t rigid planning. There will be off shoots as students become engaged in different design experiences and take it into their own direction, but the plan will intentionally guide students to a specific areas of learning. By the time we were finished the teacher had an overall idea of what would be happening in her classroom for about six weeks. She still has work to do in terms of collecting resources and setting up learning experiences but the direction for the learning is clear.
Almost every educator speaks to not having enough time and especially don’t have time to meet with colleagues. I have said it myself! However, if teachers make the time at the outset and plan together, there will be more time in the long run. Time for ourselves as people. We need to shift the balance of work and life so that we are our best selves in the classroom for students. That’s just good for everyone.