Outstanding lessons are not planned in isolation

Only a few gifted teachers can plan an outstanding lesson in isolation. For the rest of us mere mortals I strongly believe the only way to plan an outstanding lesson is to do so in collaboration, sharing ideas and discussing the merits and faults in your ideas.

I’m a historian. So let’s explain this using a historical analogy.

Churchill could never have won the Second World War on his own.

Without doubt he had amazing ideas and could deliver a speech like no other (have you heard the ‘fight them on the beaches’ speech!) but he needed help. No matter how good you are or think you are, you like Churchill will need help. You can probably come up with some good ideas on your own but you need to run those ideas by someone else, you will need criticism, you will need inspiration. Churchill had a cabinet of men he could rely on, men like Beaverbrook, who Churchill knew would inspire the drive to increase aircraft production. Like Churchill you need your right-hand man like Beaverbrook. The one person in your department who you can rely on to give you the key drive and inspiration or point out your faults. This is fundamental. Find that one person who you know will be honest and get talking about learning.

But this alone won’t be enough. Churchill also needed a solid force behind him with the British Army, the RAF and the Navy. Sure he had good ideas but if he had no force he would have been lost. This force these days is the internet. It’s the reliable brute force that you can count on to supply you time and time again. Whether it’s tapping in on ideas from Twitter (this is like the boys at Bletchley spying on the others and sneaking their ideas to you) or solid advice from message boards (schoolhistory.co.uk) or simply the good old TES Resources. You know that this is the place you can fall back on.

However, even this alone would not have given Churchill the key to success. The reason that Churchill was able to win the war was that he also listened to the advice of those he didn’t necessarily agree with. Both Eisenhower and Stalin gave him advice that he didn’t initially like. Both Eisenhower and Stalin did things he didn’t like. But ultimately both had ideas that would work. Therefore seek out that colleague who does things very differently to you, seek out the really experienced teacher, the new wacky teacher and listen. You probably won’t want to do everything they do, but somewhere in all that advice there will be some gold.

But, what really wins a war is a singular vision and planning an outstanding lesson requires the same. With help I could plan an outstanding lesson. Does this mean if you picked up my lesson plan you’d deliver an outstanding lesson? Probably not. This isn’t a reflection on you but ultimately in the classroom you need to be yourself. You need to teach how you teach, not how someone else does. So yes listen to all the advice you can, you need to, BUT ultimately a truly outstanding lesson must be yours.

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One Response to Outstanding lessons are not planned in isolation

  1. Jason Lincoln says:

    I think you make a fundamental point which all teachers need to follow. We are always learning and we emphasise this to our students, that they must be life long learners and so we must also show that we are continuing to learn, adapt and change. We must carry the beacon of continued learning and always evaluate ourselves to be better professionals. To do this we must observe, talk and use other form of communications (e.g. social media) to strive to improve our teaching and our own understanding of events/issues etc.

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