my brain is on fire

I put out the fire with a nice glass of wine at the end of a loooong day, so now I’m just scorched.  Let’s look back on the day, shall we?

I started my day with a meeting.  (Always a great start.) I have a weekly meeting of mentor teachers, master teachers, and administrators.  The master teachers and administrators meet the day before to go through weekly business, and they make decisions for us to approve or not.  It cuts down on our Wednesday meeting time, so I appreciate that.

But.  Actually, I started my day at home, checking my work email, and reading an email about the agenda for the meeting.  And it made me furious.  It said that I had asked that the number of  observations I have to conduct be reduced (which I did not!) and that my request had been refused.  When I got there, we had to get through the first two agenda items, and then we got to the one that referenced me.  Here’s more or less what I said:

“I was quite surprised to read my colleague’s email about the business items to discuss.  I feel that I have been rather grievously misunderstood.  It appears that you discussed a request that I did not make, and that you did not discuss the request that I did make.  While I’m sure I said last week that I have too many observations to do, at no point did I ever request that you lower my number of observations.

“I wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing, for if I did, it would mean that the rest of you would have to do even more observations than you are currently scheduled for.  What I did request — and what you somehow failed to discuss yesterday — was that you figure out if we think it is more important to get into teachers’ classrooms to do coaching, or if we think it is more important to get all the observations done.  Given that we have fewer mentor teachers than ever, we have more observations to do in less time.  I had hoped to do some actual coaching, and am concerned that it will not be possible.  At any rate, I think it is important that we make a conscious decision, one way or the other.  And I did suggest, as a creative measure, that we reduce all teachers’ observations from three to two, which would mean fewer observations for each of us to do, which would free us up for more coaching.”

Alas, it appears that the rules will not let us reduce the number of observations for each teacher, which means that I have seven observations to do in five weeks.  Given that each observation requires a pre-observation conference, a 45-60 minute observation, 2-3 hours for writing up the evidence to prepare for the post-observation conference, and then the post-observation conference itself, I have at least 5 hours I will have to spend on each one, and that means 35 hours worth of work in the next five weeks totally aside from my teaching.


The meeting moved on, and we switched to looking at the rubric for lesson plans.  It was a good idea — I’m not sure I ever read that part of our handbook, and I’m sure we as a team have never discussed what makes a good lesson plan before.  One of the master teachers showed a typical lesson plan from one of our teachers one the document camera, and we used the rubric to score it.  The problem?  This lesson plan, which looks a lot like mine (although not as detailed), and a lot like 90% of my colleagues’ lesson plans, got a 1 from all of us.  (1, for those of you unfamiliar with rubrics, is bad.  3 is good, 5 is exemplary.)  It didn’t reference the standards, it didn’t mention anything about differentiation, and it didn’t show anything like closure.

On the one hand, it seems like a good idea to take a good look at our lesson plans, and see if they are good enough.  On the other hand, my lesson plan is a working document that serves ME.  It’s my road map, my schedule, my list of what to do, in what order, and when.  There is another kind of lesson plan — the kind that you write out for one activity (usually when you are going to be observed) that lists in detail your objectives, the standards you are addressing, the differentiation you will do — but really, what teacher every does that for every day, every lesson?  It’s just not possible.

The meeting ended four minutes before my babies were to arrive, so I managed to get two minutes in the room to check in with Miss Slinger and go AUGH about the meeting.  After a really busy morning (during which a little girl reported that Pumpkin had said he hated me — which doesn’t seem to fit his personality, somehow, but prompted a little discussion with him about how it’s okay to be mad at your teacher sometimes, that everybody gets mad sometimes), and a quick lunch, I found a little time to work on the lesson plan conundrum.  Ms. Mellow took her afternoon class to lunch, so I spread out at a table in the room with my plan book, my math curriculum, and my folder full of stuff about teaching Fire Safety, and sat down to write an exemplary (or at least acceptable) lesson plan.

It was fun, actually.  I have been planning ahead (I know, will miracles ever cease?!), so I wrote out the plan for the week after next.  I had to write even smaller than usual to cram everything in — all the standards that my lessons meet, all the details, my goals for the week, and so on.  I’m going to make copies of it tomorrow, along with copies of my lesson plan for this week, written before the meeting today, and give them to the rest of the team.  I figure this will give us some fuel for our discussion.

Because while it was cool that I — for the first time ever — wrote my lesson plans with the standards at my fingertips, it took me more than an hour to write them.  Since it usually takes me 20-30 minutes, I’m not too sure that I’ve got the time for this kind of detail each week.  And frankly, if we tell the staff they have to do their plans this way, I think we could have a full-scale rebellion on our hands.

I also spent an hour each in two first grade classrooms, where I saw that both teachers have worked miracles in the last three weeks, that behavior is well under control, and some terrific learning is going on.

Then I went back to keep working on my lesson plans, until I realized it was ten minutes past the time when I was supposed to pick up my 9 year old from after-school care, and take him home with stops at the grocery store and the library on the way.

The only blessings were that at the grocery store I saw one of my students, who ran full-speed down the bags/wrap/plastic containers aisle to throw herself into my arms, and that there was that glass of wine waiting for me when I got home.

4 thoughts on “my brain is on fire

  1. CPS has been demanding changes to our lesson plans the past few years much like the changes you described. If I were to follow the template and example given to us by CPS, I would have 3 PAGES of plans for EACH DAY of school! 3 PAGES!! It would take me several hours each week to write out these plans, which is just ludicrous! 😡

  2. Wow, just thinking about the lesson plan thing makes me want to cringe. I just wrote out my plans for next week and I do not reference any standard or developmental reason why we are doing what we are doing.. but if questioned I could tell you exactly why we are doing each thing.. But to look up the exact standard or developmental milestone each time? Ugh.. I can see how in upper grades if you are in say a social studies text you can easily have the standard you are covering accessible but like language arts, you hit a lot of different ones on any given day and looking up each one? Helloooo college of ed nightmare, of I will NEVER be this detailed.. I know it’s very important to have a purpose in what you are teaching but the headache.. ahh

  3. Hugs are the best from the students!

    Oh and I have a pumpkin as well. Since we are a child care center her parents are pulling her for 2 months to save money while mom is home on maternity leave! Not a great decision but what can I do? (not really asking just venting) It really makes me sad.

  4. I usually write my lesson plans with my standards guidebook/guidelines, but I don’t indicate the standards on my plans. My plans are posted for parents to read, and I think it would make their heads spin. LOL. I try to keep in mind the goals I need/want to meet and work from there. Planning with a purpose, that’s what my director calls it.

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