Opinion
Teaching Opinion

Lesson Planning: The Task I Love To Hate

By Marilyn Rhames — May 02, 2012 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

What would you say is the hardest part of teaching? For me, it is lesson planning. It takes me on average six hours a week to plan instruction for the nine science units I teach each year.

It’s not just the writing of the plans that is laborious; it’s the intellectual contemplation that goes into it. I must figure out ways to make my instruction clear and engaging. I have to be skilled at knowing when to skip portions of the curriculum and supplement other parts on my own. I must also differentiate the content, pedagogy, and assessments based on student learning needs.

The lesson plans at my school are officially due on Thursday for the following week. But who has an extra six hours lying around in the middle of the week to write them? When I leave school, I begin my other full-time job as wife and mother. I also need a little leisure time alone—and that doesn’t include sleep! My official workday ends at 4:15, but I stay an hour or two after work everyday to clean up the science lab, put posters on the wall, or grade papers.

Needless to say, I am always turning in my lesson plans late. I either get up at 5 am on Saturday to write my lesson plans until around 11 a.m., or I sleep in on Saturday and fly home after church on Sunday to work from about 2 to 8 p.m. When I’ve been really rebellious, I’m up at 4 am on Monday trying to finish up. Neither option makes me happy.

Lesson planning for me has to be done in the right state of mind. I need solace. I need to zone out on all other responsibilities. I can’t write them on my prep in between classes. I can’t write them on my lunch break. If I do, I’m distracted by all the worries of the day, writing them more for my boss than for me, making my lesson plans virtually useless.

I write the best lesson plans when I am in my bed, with my bedroom door closed, and my computer on my lap and papers scattered around me. My husband’s job is to keep the kids fed, happy, and safe until I am done.

This may sound over the top, but lesson planning is almost a spiritual ritual for me. I have to imagine myself standing in front of my students, foreshadowing the responses students will give me. I need to know that I have all my supplies that I need to do each lab. If the batteries in the flashlight, for example, are not charged, then my whole lab could fall apart. So I have the added responsibility of searching through the cabinets and containers in the science lab each morning to make sure everything I need is there. I am blessed to have an assistant this year who helps me do this!

I look forward to the day when I’ve taught all the new science units at least once and the lesson plans are already written. I wrote meticulous lesson plans for three units last year, but then my administration gave us an official lesson planning template this year. Converting last year’s plans into this year’s template takes longer to do than just writing them again from scratch. So I re-write those plans, as well as write the plans for other units with the hope that next year the template will remain the same.

As hard as lesson planning is for me, I wouldn’t want to teach without them. They make the actual act of teaching so fun and easy. The plans take the pressure off of me when I am standing in front of the classroom. I know what my students’ learning objectives are, and I know exactly what to do to get them there. If I go off on a tangent, which I sometimes do, my plans gently guide me right back on track. And if I need to take a major detour, I give myself permission to do that.

I would say that lesson planning is a major contributor to my constant sense of burnout. I honestly don’t know how long I can continue to teach because it seems that the workload only gets heavier—not lighter—with each passing year. But I also realize there are no shortcuts for being ready.

That’s why I have this love-hate relationship with lesson planning. I loathe doing it because it takes so much of my personal time and requires such a high level of intellectual rigor and forethought.

But I love to have done it because good plans help students learn. Plus it allows me to shine as a well-prepared, rock star science teacher. Well, at least in theory.

The opinions expressed in Charting My Own Course are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Opinion You Can Motivate Students to Accelerate Learning This Year
If young people suffered setbacks during the pandemic, it doesn’t mean they’re broken. Now is the chance to cover more ground than ever.
2 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Getty
Teaching Opinion A 6th Grade Class on Racism Got Me Ready for the Rest of My Life
Every student should have the opportunity to learn about race, writes a college freshman.
Cristian Gaines
4 min read
Illustration of silhouettes of people with speech bubbles.
Getty
Teaching Opinion The Classroom-Management Field Can’t Stop Chasing the Wrong Goal
And, no, new social-emotional-learning initiatives aren’t the answer, writes Alfie Kohn.
Alfie Kohn
5 min read
Illustration of children being cut free from puppet strings
Daniel Fishel for Education Week
Teaching Photos What School Looks Like When Learning Moves Outside
One class of 5th graders shows what's possible when teachers take their lessons outside.
1 min read
Teacher Angela Ninde, right, works with students in their garden at Centreville Elementary School in Centreville, Va., on Sept. 7, 2021.
Teacher Angela Ninde, right, works with students in their garden at Centreville Elementary School in Centreville, Va.
Jaclyn Borowski/Education Week