by Darren Lester
We all know the feeling. The itch. The restlessness. The uncertainty. The knowledge that the planner isn’t right, but the uncertainty of what to actually do about it.
I’ve been a teacher for twelve years, and it’s only the last couple that I’ve really worried about my teacher planner. I’ve been a happy Happy Planner for five years, so even while planning my personal life I didn’t put a great deal of thought into how to record my professional one.
For a long time, I was a PowerPoint-based teacher. I had my Medium Term Plan and Long Term Plan both saved to my school computer, so I knew what I had to cover week-by-week for each of my classes, and I let the PowerPoints I created to teach by do double-duty as both instructional slides and Individual Lesson Plan. And that worked for me for a long time. But eventually I realised that I was going through pads and pads of sticky notes, because every time a child struggled with a concept, or I didn’t quite get to an activity, I had to jot it down on a sticky note and stick it to my desk, so that I could adapt my next lesson’s PowerPoint to reflect the change.
Then MAMBI launched their teacher planners, and I felt like such an idiot. Of course I could use the Happy Planner system to plan my lessons. I’d have space to write in – saving me sticky notes – and using stickers and pens and all of the stuff I loved as part of my hobby might make lesson planning a more fun part of my job.
But the layout of the MAMBI planner didn’t work for me.
My school operates a six day week (Monday-Saturday) and I easily teach between five and nine lessons per day. That meant the layout provided didn’t give me space for all my lessons, let alone to take the kinds of detailed notes I was wanting to make during them.
So I switched to using an old vertical weekly planner. That would allow me seven periods per day and three days per spread (using the columns as periods and the rows as days). That worked for a while, I could plan out my lessons in the boxes and I enjoyed decorating it, but I found that I still wasn’t able to make as many notes during my lessons as I’d intended. The pads of stickies were still being used – though this time they could be stuck into the planner rather than just on my desk. That was something.
In September, I tried going digital with OneNote. School has supplied us with ipads as part of our ICT plan, and I was excited by the idea of going paperless. In my head, I could make as many notes as I wanted on a page, and I could import clipart and pictures from google to make the pages look cool. That worked for about three weeks, until I wanted to scribble something down quickly but (without the Apple Pencil) had to load up the keyboard and type it. I realised that I really liked the immediacy, and permanence, of pen and paper.
So then I grabbed a set of blank MAMBI covers, put some lined paper inside, and tried a hybrid bullet journal-teacher planner. I more or less had a page per lesson, and I’d plan in one set of colours and then annotate during my lesson with another. That was more the style I was going for, but it looked very sloppy.
And that’s where I am now. Coming to the end of this hybrid style. It’s definitely closer to Planner Peace for me, but not quite there yet. My next stage is to try the page-per-lesson layout, but with defined boxes. One for my objective, one for key vocabulary (I teach foreign languages), one for homework etc. Have all of my actual planning in boxes (thank goodness for Colorful Boxes sticker books!) and then annotate with my Sharpies and Stabilos. It’ll still retain the bullet journal look (which I like, as I believe lesson plans should be works in progress) but it should be easier to see what was the original plan and what was my annotations.
Will this method be my Planner Peace? I doubt it! As my teaching style continues to evolve, my planning style will continue to evolve. But am I have a blast trying out different methods to find what works for me?
You bet I am!
Darren has been a planner and teacher for a number of years. He looks forward to his weekly planning sessions (with his mum, a fellow planner addict) as a way of keeping himself on track and achieving his goals. When he isn’t planning or teaching, he writes novellas and short stories. He can be followed on Twitter @DL_Writes.