Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Planning backwards

I read this blog post this week, and I thought about one of the major points, that is, planning backwards from A-level. In September, I am going to be Lead Teacher of English at a new school where I am the only English teacher (Department nights out are going to be wild (or, alternatively, just me, in the pub, on my own, crying, into a half drunk pint of absinthe.))

Anyway. I like this idea of planning back from A-level, but I also thought about planning forward from A-level. As in, I want to plan the student that I want to leave my department, so I sat down and started to think about that student. I asked myself a very simple question: How will I describe the eighteen year old student graduating my school? Specifically, a student with an A-level in English. I jotted down a few traits before a reasonably important realisation:

The Student:
  • Well Read 
  • Respectfully Outspoken
  • Creative
  • Pragmatic
  • Confident
  • Respectfully Cynical
  • Able to Find Perspective
  • Positive.
I thought, not a bad list. The student would be able to stand up for what they believe in, and root their beliefs in an appreciation of others. They would be calm and confidant, speak well, but not try and overly control others. A great, and it was here that I found a word that has fallen a little out of fashion recently, citizen. A Great Citizen. An Ideal. My Ideal,yes, and therefore fallible and imperfect, but an ideal adult, to an extent.

This is not, then, planning back from the qualification, this is planning back from the person. This is end-result holistic planning. Notice how many of those goals are achievable in English. Go on, have a look, I'll wait.

Back? Good, let's begin.

Planning has become an exercise in filling time. Or times maybe (S operative.). It is an exercise in picking out nice neat little Lego blocks and lining them up to make a perfect shape. But that isn't really planning at all. What that is is filing. Filing children away. Planning in order to place children from the future through the present and into the past. That is not, though, how things really work.

The child that turns up in September is just a version of a later adult. That later adult exists in a plural form and is irrevocably linked to the child. It will be affected by a million unforeseeable circumstances, but if it is guided by an expectation of it being exceptional then the negative versions of itself will slide away. When was the last time you thought about the potential adult that your lesson was effecting? When was the last time you really thought about long term planning in the real long term? A lot of schools are happy to paint words like 'Success' and 'Resilience' about their doors, or write it under the crests on their blazers, but how much does that influence the actual teaching? And what does that mean? I would think that for most schools success means something that arrives in an envelope in a few weeks time, not a moment of clarity in thirty years.

Planning is not about lessons, not about blocks of time. Think of it more as painting a model. When you paint a model you have to lay down the basecoat, and it has to be right. If it doesn't quite stick or is the wrong shade then later the model will be a mess. As you go on the areas of work become smaller and smaller until you are dotting the eyes with a brush with a single hair. The thing is, that all the way through you are painting the same model, and working with the same ideal, it is just that you do the basic things first and work towards an end result that is incredibly complex. Planning is this. Plan for the best adult, and the student will become that.


No comments:

Post a Comment