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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is a Ph.D student at the University of South Florida, where he also works as a teaching assistant, supervising and teaching pre-service teachers. Steve holds a master's degree in...
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Here's What's Missing from Lesson Plans... You!

Examine any standard lesson plan template and you’ll likely to see the same categories and domains: standards, learning objectives, step-by-step plans, accommodations for various student populations, assessment, etc.

Lesson-planning is fundamental to teaching. Working from a well-thought-out plan (while it might and probably should change as you teach and gain more knowledge of your students) is a sound strategy. Some teachers use spartan plans while others utilize long, scripted out plans. I’m not here to argue whether teachers should use long or short plans or even about the basic categories commonly found in planning templates. The point of this writing is that these plans lack a vital component.

You.

Where do you fit into all this? How are you going to incorporate your strengths, interests, passions, personality and individual creativity into your teaching?

Without thinking about this aspect, your positionality within the lesson, your written plan is void of the human quality that makes your teaching truly unique. Think about it: if a teacher gave you his or her plan, containing the commonly found information, you could teach that lesson in a very similar way. What makes that plan special? Where is the teacher’s signature?

I believe we have been conditioned to think, as teachers, we do not matter so much in the plans. It’s about the students. Lessons should be student-centered. Inherently, there is nothing wrong with this thinking, but designing teaching with your students in mind and differentiating instruction should not come at the expense of inserting your personal spin on the classroom. After all, you’re the person teaching all day. Why can't you put a little-or a lot-of yourself into each and every lesson?

Another obstacle to bringing yourself more into lessons might be the reality that certain standards must be taught and school districts often require tightly scripted lessons and measurable, tested results. Again, you can reach these goals and personalize lessons; it just requires a bit of creativity.

I learned this concept, the value of inserting myself into lessons, from a past mentor. He said that by bringing myself and my passions into the classroom, my teaching would come alive and my excitement and passion will be passed onto students. He was right.

So what does this idea look like? Here’s some short scenarios:

Ms. Green loves gardening. On weekends, you can find her in the yard, planting and pruning her roses and other flowers. Faced with teaching area and perimeter during math instruction, she decides to have students build small garden boxes outside, in the process learning to apply mathematical concepts in a real-world, practical manner. She then helps students plant flowers and vegetables in the boxes (which she adores), also connecting learning to science concepts.

Mr. Tango is a music fanatic. When not teaching, he and his wife attend concerts of all types. Hoping to get his students engaged in finding text evidence when reading, he decides to bring in lyrics (school appropriate, of course) and have his students read them, searching for text evidence to questions he has designed. When finished reading, he plays some of the songs to the students, as an added treat. He then extends the lesson, comparing the lyrics to poetic writing, which segues into his poetry unit.

These are but two short examples of what can happen when you “insert” yourself into your teaching. Next time you write a lesson plan, consider adding a box called “me” or “personalizing my teaching” or “my passions and interests” or “my strengths.” Whatever it is, make sure your lesson includes one of the most essential elements: you.