“How do our students feel on those days we come to class unprepared? Or breezing in late? Or don’t have a backup plan for when the technology doesn’t work?”
I think I’m the Queen of Preparation. In fact, many people roll their eyes because I like to prepare ahead of time. I like to prepare for contingencies. I like the act of preparing almost as much as doing. I find preparation like an exploration. I discover new things along the way. This gives me time to revise and redo before I need something. Preparation is the journey to a destination and I love to travel.
I’m already preparing for my summer and fall classes at the university. I’m revising my syllabus and making changes that need to be made. I’m rereading the text book and redoing the PowerPoint slides that came with the textbook (they are absolutely horrible!).
I like to have a tentative schedule for the courses. This is a guide for the class and for me to follow so I cover all the material necessary. I used this in my high school class too. Of course this is tentative because you never know what might happen to cause the schedule to be altered. Having this schedule is like a road map. Usually I have a route planned but sometimes I have to take a few detours.
I like to plan my presentations and have them ready before I start the course. These can also be changed if I need to add slides or information. But having the bare bones already set up helps to save a lot of time. It also helps me do the research needed to give my students the best information.
If I have handouts to give my students, I like to have them all run off the week before. This means that if I have to make them, it needs to be made up the week before. At my last school, I never knew if the copy machine would be broken or out of toner so I wasn’t going to risk copying things the morning of my class. That usually resulted in disaster and it only took me a couple of times for this to happen to not risk it anymore.
If I need any tools or equipment, I make sure that I have access to everything I need the week before. I remember one time I was showing an experiment in class and forgot to bring matches to light the candle I needed to burn. Of course all of my colleagues were non smokers and no one had matches. I had to go into the bathroom where I knew some kids were smoking and ask someone to throw their lighter or matches over the door. I promised that they would not be in trouble this time but that I needed it for an experiment in my class. If someone gave me this, I would walk out and not try to find who was in the bathroom smoking. At that time, 3 lighters flew in the air and landed at my feet! Now I make sure I have everything way in advance.
If I am going to demonstrate something, I practice it first to make sure that I have all the steps down, all of the things I need, and that I haven’t left anything out. This saves me from embarrassment when I actually have to do this in front of the class. It also helps me see if I’m not clear enough on some of the steps.
I always come up with a contingency plan in case technology lets me down. I don’t count on my PowerPoint as being the main focus of my lesson. I am the resource that I need to be able to count on. Everything else is just back up for me. Visual aids whether PowerPoint or websites or videos enhance the lesson that I’m teaching but I am the one with the main knowledge.
I also like to show up for class 30 - 45 minutes early. Sometimes this is when I find out I left my room key at home or that there is some problem inside the room (roof leak, or heat/ac is broken) and can request to move to another location. This gives me time to get acclimated to the classroom, temperature, and check on any technology I might need. This gives me time to transition from traveling to the class and getting in a different mind frame to teach.
Students know if I’m not prepared and this isn’t the kind of role model I want them to see. If I expect them to be on time and be prepared for class, how can I expect less of myself? I believe that being prepared is vital to a successful lesson.
What kind of things do you do to be prepared for the classroom? Please share.