I find a jumping off point tonight by sharing the prescient lyrics of Semisonic’s 1998 song “Closing Time”: Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.
As a young teacher I was upset that the top group, THE TOP GROUP, PEOPLE, didn’t receive the coveted “Unanimous Superior” as a result of our sight-reading…
Once upon a time 130 students sounded like a lot to handle.
Years 1-2 Plan EVERYTHING
Years 3-5 I’ve got this. No plans necessary. I know what I need to fix
Years 6-16 Rehearsal outline done for the next week Friday before
What you just read above captures the synthesized version of my personal journey with lesson planning. As I’ve said previously, I consider myself a Type A- personality. I’m selectively retentive and organized about some things.
Ok, who am I kidding…I’m retentive and organized about all things. At school.
At home? Not so much. Maybe that’s where the A- comes in.
Lesson planning was something I thought (after I was out of my teaching infancy) experienced teachers didn’t need to do. And so I began winging it. I rationalized this by telling myself that I knew more than the students and could stand in front of them and fix what needed to be fixed and we would be fine.
And we were. We did just great. Got good ratings at festival. Started winning some band competitions. External metrics that told me I/we were doing a good job.
But whatever we were doing felt empty. Something nagged at me because I knew I wasn’t doing my best work to prepare for rehearsals. Maybe it was because the bands got better and I realized I needed to do the same.
My guilty conscious got the best of me after I had embarrassed myself a few times on the podium. You know, not being able to count a rhythm, know a fingering, or solve a tuning issue because I didn’t know what chord we were playing.
So I resumed lesson planning, a task I still complete each week without fail. My lesson plans do look different than they did at the beginning of my career. Now it’s a weekly rehearsal schedule that I post for the students, too. They check it faithfully each day.
I do supplement the schedule with more thorough notes that I take at the end of rehearsals. Sticky notes on scores, a couple of minutes of reflection to add to the punch-list for each ensemble…all are short cuts I’ve developed to maximize my planning efficiency.
And for frame of reference, I am prepping 5 different ensembles (usually about 20 scores at any given time) so planning is paramount. I can’t tolerate the feeling of not having a plan any more. The adage “If it feels wrong it must be right” definitely does NOT ring true for me with lesson plans.
I’m not here to shame anyone for not lesson planning. But if you think you could do better and want some perspective on my thoughts, then here you go!