Sunday, December 1, 2013

Destination 2014: Punctual Planning

During exams every six months, I try to carve some time away from marking and trivial admin to use for dreaming big and creating plans and resources for the coming six months or year. This time has been no exception, and in fact I feel that I've been more successful than usual at making this a priority. This is partly through necessity, because I am acting as curriculum organizer for not one but two year groups in my two subjects so flying by the seat of my pants in terms of planning is just not going to cut it!

Now that exams are over, and school is winding down for the year, I want to make thinking ahead even more of a priority for December. I want to get my ideas, aspirations and plans for next year down on paper (well, virtual paper). Although they may not work out how I imagine now, at least I can refer back to these goals, and see how I have done. Hence my new mini-series: Destination 2014.

My first topic - though it really links into all the others, and is maybe more of an introduction to the series concept: Punctual Planning.

You see, no matter how hard I try to be an good, solid, consistent teacher; cool, calm and collected; patient and caring...

...taking my students on wild, but carefully organised adventures through the syllabus...

...more often I am a lot more like poor Jasmine trapped in the deadly hourglass:

Too little time, too much admin, too little inspiration, too much material and just too many students!

Now of course this dilemma isn't unique to me, nor is it one that can just be solved with a click of the fingers. BUT... I find careful, boring, precise and punctual planning can help a lot. To mix my movie metaphors completely, it just means that I have a bag of tricks to call upon when things get...sticky...

Anyway, so here is my strategy for conquering planning in 2014:

  1. Expectation Management: planning lessons at least two weeks in advance (including resources/activities) just isn't optional. No, really. Come now. Why two? See below points...
  2. Sharing (staff-team): I need to be sending at least fortnightly emails keeping all the teachers of grade 9 Maths and English on the same page. Probably more like weekly in the case of Maths. Thursday afternoon deadline: emails must be typed (at home if necessary) so that they can be sent on Fridays. This is partly why one week ahead just isn't good enough. By the time I do the email, my personal planning already needs to be done for the week after next so that I can give good outlines and deadlines (especially for English).
  3. Communication (learners): I want to print fortnightly lesson outlines, including topics, textbook references and activities to put up in my classroom. This will help to keep me and the class focused and goal orientated. Hence two weeks' worth of planning, again.
  4. Tests: for English, these need to be done a term ahead (term one 2014 already done, yay!!). For Maths I need to start setting two weeks ahead so that I can distribute for comment a week ahead. Diarise these "start setting" dates at the beginning of each term. Do the actual test dates for the year NOW. Yes you can. Tomorrow.
  5. Scheduling: one of my two non-chess afternoons (until 5ish) must be dedicated to lesson prep and printing. The remaining chess-free afternoon must be used for test setting and moderating, plus general resource creation. No trivial admin (emails! marking!) on these afternoons. Saturday morning while Adam teaches = laundry and spill-over planning.
Important Questions for...
  1. End of Every School Day: Is everything printed for tomorrow? Can I roll into school and "do" tomorrow off the top of my head? Does anything on my plan need to change based on today's lessons? Do I need to do a bit of top-up work at home?
  2. End of Every Week: Does everyone know about next week's tests/deadlines? Is everyone comfortable with the goals and resources required for next week? Am I on top of tests/deadlines/goals/resources for the week after next?
  3. After Every Assessment: What and when is the next one? Is it set? Has it been checked by everyone? If not... why am I not already doing that??? If so, can I get ahead on next term's assessments?
  4. End of Every Term: Are all the English assessments set and checked? Do I have all the dates for Maths assessments + proposed topics + "start-setting" dates?
Remember, future self... planning makes everything better! It means that you are free to just go with it, improvise, have fun, roll with the punches... and still get everything done.

And also remember... all of this punctual planning? Starts now. 

yours planningly


  1. Here i raise a glass to you Jo - hope you inspire me to follow suit... you did brilliant stuff for Grade 9 this year! You also need a rest over December, in which school is the furtherest thing from your brain... it is needed so you start off fresh and full of energy...

    1. Thank Alison: very encouraging! And don't worry - school will be last on the list of priorities for most of December. I just need to get all the ideas written down so they stop being in my head ;)