It’s a vivid analogy and one which holds as true as it ever did – after all, babies still need baths, even in 2013. It means, of course, that in the rush for modernisation (whatever that means), we sometimes lose our grip on what’s important.
All around me in the twittersphere, I hear the relief of educators who genuinely believe they have been liberated from the tyranny of planning, by Ofsted’s assertion that they don’t need to see session plans. (They do, however, want to see a “well planned session“. Go figure.) The hegemony of SMART learning outcomes is being unpicked and dismissed; there is talk of ‘five minute’ session plans or none at all. Divergent views are healthy; what I do find slightly uncomfortable is a whisper of “I told you so,” directed at those of us who still choose to invest time in planning.
I’m not naive: as a teacher educator I have the privilege of reaching into all sorts of organisations and the even greater one of hearing my students’ stories; I know that there are mechanistic, oppressive planning expectations out there, not to say exploitation of this country’s employment laws. There are many teachers on zero hours salaries, expected to plan in their own time and barely paid at a rate which reflects the skill of their facilitation, never mind their planning and mindfulness. I couldn’t blame any one of these unfairly-treated colleagues for resorting to the back of a fag packet.
But for me, someone to whom ‘winging it’ comes naturally on a good day, planning has been what is liberating about teaching. Through the work of Nancy Kline (eg 2009), I learned to explore paradoxes and the one which stuck the most was ‘Freedom needs Boundaries’. This chimed sweetly in my ADHD brain and I began to challenge the assumptions I was making. Ken Robinson famously defined creativity as ‘original ideas that have value‘ (RSA Animate, 2010). Innovation is what happens when some of those ideas get implemented. They get implemented through planning.
I learned that the discipline of working through a planning process separated into a whole (scheme of work) and component parts (session plans) gave me the safety I needed to do the innovative work of my life. The mindful and intentional process of planning harnessed my creative energy and gave it focus, gave it purpose. That’s why the either/or debate holds no interest for me, except as a perplexed bystander; what we should be discussing is not if we plan, but how. How can we plan to best release our creative energies for the benefit of our students’ learning?
For some people, that genuinely will be on the back of a fag packet, after lots of clear, constructive, mindful thinking. Others will find their creativity released by a mind map, or images, or patterns that make sense to them. We are all wired up differently. I favour a plan which looks detailed, even bulky, but which takes a surprisingly short time to write, because all the thinking has taken place beforehand. And, being in some ways a Little Miss Show Off, I do want someone observing my session (no matter who they are) to be in no doubt about the thought that has gone into it. Yes, I can work a room. But the best of my teaching comes through graft, because that’s less about me and more about the people who really matter in this dynamic – those students who do me the honour of coming to me to learn.
Kline, N (2009) More Time to Think Burley-in-Wharfedale Fisher King
RSA Animate (2010) Sir Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms online http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U accessed 13.10.13
PS that’s my dad on the left! 🙂