Lesson plan

I occasionally tell my students about my experiences walking in the mountains. I am no mountaineer, but every year I manage to spend a few days in the mountains somewhere or other, hiking and wild camping and on occasion getting lost and traversing frozen lakes and encountering wolves and chasing away bears and so on (I may be exaggerating about the bears a little).


I tell my students all this, in part as an exercise in self-aggrandisement, but also to illustrate a point about planning. Every year I study maps and plot routes and make exhaustive plans, and every year when I arrive I end up doing something entirely off-plan, usually because of weather problems, or transport problems. But the plan, I have come to understand, was never a script to be followed; it was merely a way of thinking about the possibilities in detail.

The same is true of lessons and lesson plans. Some of us have for one reason or another been drawing up fairly detailed lesson plans for some of our lessons this week (don’t we always? why of course…). In fact we don’t really need to break down our lessons quite so precisely in a normal week, since years and countless hours of experience for most of us mean that by now we know very well how things will go with certain material before we step into the classroom, and, for the most part, we are going to want to respond to what arises moment by moment.

But it is not a useless exercise. Thinking about what we are going to do in a bit more detail allows us to consider the possible alternatives. So when something arises, or goes wrong, it matters not a jot. We have mapped the land before we stepped into the classroom, and have an idea what to do if and when we encounter drooling megafauna.

There is such a thing as too much planning, but only if you stick to the plan.