The Plan is Not to Plan

The school year is off and running, and I couldn’t be happier with my new batch of scientists. They are an eager bunch with a lot of great skills, and I cannot wait to see where they go. One of the things I find most fun about being a teacher is having to adapt to each new group as they come my way.  

In the past few years, I’ve made some major changes. I’ve gone from a fairly structured lecture-lab setup to something much more freeform with a project-based learning environment. I’ve gone from counting points and averaging scores to conferencing with students and having a classroom that is really centered around learning.

Every year, I’ve thought really hard about how my room should continue to progress. I read and talk to other teachers a lot over the summer, and usually have a bunch of different ideas rolling around in my brain as the year starts. This year though, I couldn’t settle on anything. I had little things I wanted to get better at, but nothing major came to me. In a blog post last year about creating culture, I spoke about how my room was as it should be … students working in a happy and healthy learning environment.

However, my brain was still looking for that new thing to work on. That one thing that I would plan to roll out. Until one day it hit me … there would be no plan.

The plan will be not to plan.

What am I going to do instead? I’m going to focus on being present for each and every learner in my room. I’m going to ask them more thoughtful questions, both about science and about the myriad of other things that make up their lives. I’m going to try to “move to the middle’ and connect students with resources on a personalized level. I’m going to adapt to all these wonderful new people that I now get the honor of sharing time with.  

I actually have a name for this … I call it Highly Responsive Teaching (or HRT for those acronym lovers like me). Garnet Hillman deserves a round of applause for working through this idea with me. I’m responding to the needs of my learners in that moment. It will look different every single day and for every single kid. By no means will I call it easy, but I do think it is highly worth it.

Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean my learners won’t follow a clear path. Our structure will remain in place. Students will journal and discuss at the start of class and close the class with reporting out what they learned. We will still break down our standards and make rubrics together as a class. We will curate resources together as a class and share all our wonderful projects when we are done. By no means, will the room be a free-for-all, but it will be a fantastic place to learn.

In the end, I’m thinking that by being highly responsive to each student’s individual needs, they will be able to dive deeper into their learning. We will see how it goes!  

Don’t aim for success if you want it. Just do what you love and believe in and it will come naturally. – Sir David Frost

2 responses to “The Plan is Not to Plan”

  1. Master teachers have plans, but they also understand the central importance of presence/improvisation/relationship—let’s call it life in the classroom—which can’t be completely planned, only lived. I loved “highly responsive teaching” as a model and goal for myself from the first time you shared it, Katie. I know you would be quick to pass along the credit (to Garnet, students, and colleagues) but in my world you will always be HRH of HRT. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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