I’ve done a great job this semester of planning the week’s lessons the weekend before. It’s a necessity with my busy schedule this fall. I also did a great job of planning ahead for this week two weekends ago because of last weekend’s vacation. Go me!
The Lessons Could Be Better
The problem is that I’ve been feeling kind of disconnected from what I planned even though I’m the one who planned it and I review it the morning before class. Today, for example, it was an OK lesson with a nice balance of interaction, accuracy practice, and fluency practice. We even had a discussion about our neighborhood that involved us making a huge map of the school’s neighborhood together. But it was all somehow uninspired, and I think uninspiring as well.
I’m not trying to be hyper-critical of myself here, just honest. I’m doing it (or at least most of it) right, but something feels a little off. This is kind of concerning to me and I think it’s important that I look into it before I go numb to it.
I saw a really interesting article in the New Yorker that I think sheds an interesting light on this. The topic is really about procrastination, but it discusses research that suggests that individuals actually have differing identities within them all negotiating for and against different decisions we make. Here’s a quote from the New Yorker’s article (emphasis mine):
But some of the philosophers in “The Thief of Time” have a more radical explanation for the gap between what we want to do and what we end up doing: the person who makes plans and the person who fails to carry them out are not really the same person: they’re different parts of what the game theorist Thomas Schelling called “the divided self.”
So I feel a little less silly now about confessing that I feel less like I’m teaching when I follow Last-Weekend-Emily’s lesson plan instead of Last-Night-Emily’s lesson plan. It generally feels much more like I’m using a lesson plan out of a textbook, like I’m following a script, even though I wrote the “script.” Why does that feel so separate from actively observing, supporting, guiding, and teaching?
Maybe it is this idea of the “divided self,” that “someone else” really did write the lesson. Maybe it’s tied to my style of interacting and my deep enjoyment of well-informed improvisation. Maybe I’ve been planning mediocre lessons. Or maybe I’m being too hard on myself.
Regardless of the philosophical or psychological causes of my conundrum, I’d like to move toward being happier with my lessons.
It’s tempting to try going back to planning the night before. I just think it would be a horrible idea given my other scheduling commitments and the other obvious issues with relying on last-minute planning.
One workable next step is to ask my students for feedback even though 1) it’s difficult to ask abstract questions to beginners and 2) it’s going to be hard to get honest criticism from such kind, respectful people.
Another way to shake things up could be to review my lessons the night before (instead of the morning of) to try to get back into my original mindset more thoroughly.
Rest assured that as I tweak my process, I’ll try to not be too hard on myself.