A good discussion was had yesterday between extremely successful grade-level leader and the two of us who lead grade-levels who were not as successful last year. When we really talked about what was different at the grade levels that could be replicated, we came up with cognitive planning. We’ve done this in the past, but have fallen away from it in the last 2-3 years. I’m going to try and steer my department back in this direction.
My thoughts on this…frankly, I don’t really like planning with people. I know it makes your lesson better and you’re a better teacher and all that. Since I know this, I’m going to do it. However, I have all of you. My PLN and the internets are out there at my fingertips when I want to lesson plan at 5 am or Saturday at 2:30 or whatever. You are a much broader source or material than my little department. We do all sorts of things I’ve found on blogs or twitter. I’m a well-oiled, workaholic, organized machine, so I plan on my own and am happy about it. If other people wanted to plan with me, they were welcome, but I did not plan after school meetings for it. In the past, planning meetings have tended to become complain, tell stories, and socialize time and took forever to get where we needed to be. I’m not blaming anyone in particular. I was definitely part of this problem. That’s why we moved away from planning together. But, in efforts to make the department better, we shall try again.
Here are norms I’m hoping to adopt:
-A code word to keep us on track. If someone gets off task, we call them on it and there’s no hurt feelings. We’ve got limited time to get stuff done.
-People come with some basic planning done. You know what topics are being taught and you’ve gathered your ideas so we share and problem-solve together.
-Everyone works to have something to share, and if you don’t have anything to bring to the table, perhaps you offer to do something else that helps lighten the load like write an assessment. (I’m iffy on this norm. We’ll see.)
-There are no excuses for poor achievement–no blaming your demographic etc. Instead, we look to those who were successful and learn from them.
-We begin and end on time.
-Time is spent on planning effective teaching strategies and assessments for when the students are in the classroom. Writing assessments and choosing assignments are done outside of the planning meeting.
The idea is that in an hour, we have at least one solid idea or plan for each element of the lesson for an entire week. Does your department plan together? If it works, what do you do? If it doesn’t work, what are things my department should be intentional to avoid?