A time to reflect
Teacher Talk by MALLIKA VASUGI
As if a record of their lesson plans aren’t enough, teachers are unsure of instructions that require them to provide extra details.
WRITING our daily lesson plans in our teacher’s record book is something that comes with the job and has never been that much of an issue with most teachers.
Unless of course it is already Friday, the day your record book is due to be sent up for checking by the principal and because you have been so busy with other duties you have not had the time to complete it.
And believe me, writing lesson plans for an entire week can be rather painful especially when you are writing it “backwards” meaning that instead of planning for the next day’s lesson, you are trying very hard to remember what it is you actually did with a particular Form 2 class on Tuesday.
Of course there are teachers, even highly competent ones, who dismiss the teaching preparation and record as “a book of lies” because they claim that what is written is hardly ever what really is carried out in the classroom anyway, unless there are rumours of some nazir (teaching inspectorate) wandering around the neighbourhood.
And if you are thinking of shortcuts it could be rather embarrassing if your principal were to call you up and say that while he appreciates your efforts at energy conservation, “recycling” of lesson plans of the previous weeks, are not quite the way to go.
Most of us have already discovered that it really helps when we write our lesson plans according to schedule, as it actually makes our teaching much easier, which is what it was intended for in the first place.
After all, it is nothing compared to the tedious, multiple-page-long lesson plans we had to do when we were teachers in training. Once in a while when we happen to glance at the laborious efforts and the finely detailed teaching plans of the trainee-teachers in our midst we smile to ourselves thinking about our own “trainee” days, and what a relief it was that our lesson plans need not be recorded in such detail.
Even so, there are differences in teachers’ perceptions about what qualifies as a sufficiently detailed lesson plan.
There are those who believe in writing the briefest of brief outlines, as long as it complies with the standard requirements and there are others who are much more meticulous.
And then of course, as my friend Ravee says, there are teachers who place great importance on the “aesthetic value”of their record books.
“Not only were there coloured illustrations and inspirational verses on every page,” said Ravee recalling the books he’d seen, “ they had gift wraps and fancy labels stuck on them.
You wouldn’t believe that it was a teacher’s record book. It looked more like one of those wedding hantaran (gifts).”
“Something to think about,” mused Lynn,” if you’re going to marry a teacher what better wedding gift to present your intended, than an already complete, beautifully decorated record book. Your new husband would be eternally grateful for all the hours and hours of writing and planning that you have saved him.”
Although we all laughed at that, it did seem a little like being unclear of the concept. The teaching plans are supposed to facilitate your actual teaching, make it easier, not more difficult. That’s what planning is all about.
“I have even heard,” continued Ravee, “about school administrators who award prizes for the ‘best’ teacher’s record book. While their intentions may have been good, I can’t help feeling that they are somewhat misguided.”
Jill said that she would go for the “English Rose” theme. “Pink lace and ribbons, cushioned panels with tapestry and slots for photographs of me and my family. And every Friday before I send it in, I will spray it with a whiff of Lavender Delight. Imagine a lavender-and-roses perfumed record book. Bound to get first prize.”
On a more serious note, while teachers generally have no problems writing out and listing down their thoughts of their planned lessons in the two areas — “objectives” and “activities” — they are unsure as to what they need to write for in “reflections”.
“Aren’t “reflections” supposed to be a form of personal feedback?” asked one teacher who was a little unhappy about the instructions she had received.
“Isn’t this where we write about how the lesson went, whether anything ought to be changed or reinforced…but they tell me that I have to make some kind of quantitative statement there … using numbers or percentages, like 75% of the students understood the concept or 25 students could answer 10 questions correctly. Come on … how on earth are we able to determine that at the end of every lesson?”
“Sometimes the evaluation exercises are given as homework assignments.,” said another obviously disgruntled teacher. “So what do I write then?
“Be clairvoyant, and make some percentage predictions? Since all they want are numbers, maybe I should just give them some numbers.” Perhaps somewhere along the way from the true purpose of teaching “reflections” and its implementation, something got lost in translation.
It’s the only explanation that makes sense when we are sometimes asked to perform certain tasks that do not benefit either students or teachers, apart from adding on to the thickness of files for documentation.
There is a place for quantitative measurements under “reflections”, there is no doubt about that. But to make it the chief tool of evaluating how every lesson progressed, would somehow strip it of its essence and leave us with only husks.