Planning and Lonliness

Part of the problem is loneliness. I haven’t seen anyone today and I don’t know that I will. I’m thinking about going across the street, but what prevents me from doing that is the simple understanding that I still haven’t finished planning for tomorrow. I could say to myself, “You don’t have class until 9:50 tomorrow morning. You can wait and throw something together then.” But that’s exactly what I did last year and where did it get me? What did I accomplish? What did the students learn? How as my sanity? So I want to try to finish writing a lesson plan for tomorrow. But I know (or rather, “I expect”) that when I go back and sit down with a fresh outlook (as fresh as I can manage at this point), I’ll run into the same brick wall. “What the hell am I going to do tomorrow?”

That was a nightly battle last year and I assume that it’s going to be the same way this year. Every evening I struggled to come up with a lesson, forty-five minutes of business and productivity. When I finally came up with something and finished all the planning, I thought, “Whew—did it again. But I’ve no idea where I’ll get another activity from.” Yet somehow, I always managed to come up with something. It’s just that toward the end of the year, my “somethings” were turning out to be rather boring and ineffective. The students didn’t respond well at all and I was left wondering what the hell I could do differently. Part of my trouble now is that the same thing is happening at the beginning of the year. I think, “Well, I survived about four or five weeks of that last year, but I can’t do nine or ten months of it this year.”

I just don’t know what the problem is. Is it that I’m not doing enough planning? Am I leaving to much up to chance? Am I too often saying, “Okay, that’s a good idea but I’ll improvise the finer details tomorrow during the lesson”? Am I planning with the wrong objective? What is my objective? I guess if I’m honest, I’m still running on last year’s fourth-quarter improvisational objective: “Let’s fill these forty-five minutes.” I need to shift my priorities and not worry so much about filling the time as teaching them English and giving them opportunities to use the language authentically. […]

Part of the problem I have is with providing structure within the lesson. I come up with fairly good ideas for activities, but I then expect (today’s magic word) the students do come up with too much stuff on their own. I provide only the barest frame and then expect them to go out and buy the paint and canvas, think of a proper subject, and finish the piece of art. Take my last lesson with IIIA for example. I told them that since we weren’t going to be using books this year, we must decide on what we want to study and how. Now that was entirely too broad of a topic. They really don’t know what the possibilities are (both in subject matter and methodology) and so to expect them to discuss that (even with the gimick of “alter egoes”) was asking entirely too much.

I also don’t have enough of a long-term plan. I told IIIA that I hope to give them a syllabus at some point which gives them at least a rough idea of what we will be doing in the coming weeks. I need also to establish a routine, a weekly schedule so that I have some idea of where I need to go with the lesson before I even start planning it. And yet I’m really not sure how to go about doing that.

Once again, I know what I need (more structure; more long-term planning; more control over the class; more enthusiasm from my students), but I’ve no idea how to go about achieving these things. It’s the seemingly unbridgeable gap between theory and praxis. Even with a year’s experience, I don’t know how to overcome these problems.

I’ve no idea.

I’ve no ideas.

I’ve no ideal.

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