Planning for the Unexpected

Sally K. AlbrechtBy Sally K. Albrecht, Editor

Are you a teacher who plans every class period down to the minute? Or do you go in with a general plan for the day and see how the chips fall? Or perhaps you have definite long-range goals for each class, that may take 3, 4, 5, or more classes to accomplish, leaving yourself some flexibility?

Do you remember the popular phrase “Different strokes for different folks?” What are YOU comfortable with as a teacher, as an educator? I’m sure you’ve watched others at their craft, chosen a mentor, or perhaps became one yourself.

Happily, each of us has our own directive, own pace, own goals, and own way of getting there. But then, of course, there’s that unexpected snow day, or a late bus, or field trip, or pep rally, or guest speaker that just puts a major crimp in our our plans for the day.

Each educator needs to be ready to implement an alternate plan. Can we come up with a quicker solution or different route to the finish line? Think “The Tortoise and the Hare!” Slow and steady might just win the race, if we choose the right path.

No matter how much we plan ahead, or think we know the correct route, we must always be ready for the inevitable to happen . . . but the trick is NOT to let the students know you’ve missed a beat. Don’t blame it on them. Don’t make them think that they’ve missed anything in your teaching strategy. Keep up your enthusiastic pace, and make sure that every child in your room gets a smile, a positive word or look, or an encouraging pat on the back each and every day.

I recently conducted a choral festival where just about everything that could go wrong DID go wrong, mostly within the first hour of rehearsal. I’ve never seen a better, more positive, “quick-on-the-draw” group of elementary teachers (and custodians) jump in to help and solve the problems. I had limited rehearsal time and lost nearly an hour of it, but took a deep breath and jumped in as energetically as possible, encouraging the singers to concentrate to their fullest extent, taking turns taking breaks, and calling on the teachers to help with all of the extras.

Kids, like teachers, are resilient. They love to sing, to perform, and to succeed. They enjoy supporting and encouraging each other, applauding each other’s performances. Stay positive with them. Don’t let them know when you’re sweating out a scary moment or an unexpected turn of events. Be the teacher that draws the best out of them . . . “where never is heard a discouraging word!”


One response to “Planning for the Unexpected

  1. Sally,
    Thank you for your words of wisdom. Many times you feel like you have let your students and colleagues down if things don’t go the way that you plan. Over the years, I have learned and am still learning, sometimes you have to improvise. Many times one class can do what another class take twices as long to accomplish.

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