The Fatal Flaw
"I have all this knowledge and I can't wait to share it with my students!"
Says the eager, newly-graduated teacher approaching the first day of school. And then it all comes crashing down during the first week, even the first day. I've seen too many young, wide-eyed teachers in tears, shock, and disbelief when their dreams are lying shattered around their feet. Literally.
What happened? Where did I go wrong?
As an independent, instructional side-by-side coach for several years, the one common denominator that I found in struggling teachers was their inability to see the importance of having a PLAN!
Units and Lesson Plans do not just materialize out of thin air. Nor should they be a list of random activities designed to fill up the allotted class time. That can be fun for the students but is not educationally sound in the long run.
Lesson plans should be sequential and age appropriate. And, yes, based on those infamous standards. The National Standards are not an albatross, hanging around your neck. They were actually developed to help you. The developers of curriculum, whether in textbooks or online-based learning, have designed experiential lessons where students learn in a logical and sequential way based on sound methodology and child development. Trust the books or whatever curriculum your district has adopted. Follow it!
After a few years of experience, you will learn how to analyze and plug into the appropriate places those fun activities from workshops and classes. The beauty of being a music teacher is you can determine the music curriculum for your students for 4-5 years. And you must have a long-range plan. That's where your lesson plans come from—"how you're going to get there!" Read—Who's driving your car?
In my 30 years of teaching, I never faced my students without a well-thought-out, written plan, based on my long-term goals and the standards! YES! Every day, every class.
"I have all these great songs and activities that I want to use when they come to music class! I can't wait!"
"My room is beautiful. I have worked hours hanging posters. Setting up the instruments . . . "
"Just wait until they see the great virtual background/greenscreen that I created for my online class."
An important, vital part of your plan is to establish your rules and expectations during the first class. Whether you are teaching online or in person, if this doesn't happen, everyone will leave frustrated. Yes, believe it or not, your students do not like chaos. But they will quickly become a part of it, if you do not have a PLAN!
After your fun, engaging activity, begin teaching your rules and expectations and consequences. That can be done in a fun way also. But it has to be done.
If you are new to online teaching, be sure you have a plan before you ever begin your first class. A few tips—
Familiarize yourself with the platform you will be using whether, Schoology, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or whatever your system has designated. You should know how to use it. Well.
Do you need a mic? Other equipment? Have everything you need within reach!
Several days before you begin, send parents an email with instructions for how you will be teaching class so students will be prepared.
Be sure students are on "mute."
Practice with members of your family or friends who can spend 10-15 minutes helping you set up.
Finally, be yourself.
A few final thoughts—
Be Prepared—Know your lesson plan. Have more in your plan than you can possibly do. Use what you know how to do and are comfortable with to help children feel that you are confident and we can do this!
Be Consistent—Set the rules, expectations, consequences, and implement!
Be Flexible—Expect the unexpected.
Be Creative and RELAX!!—Find fun new ways to teach and engage the students in meaningful, intentional learning experiences.
Be Enthusiastic—Relax, SMILE, and no matter what, HAVE FUN!!*