Friday, May 6, 2011

Lesson Planning Time: The Great Debate

I have met a lot of foreigner English teachers during my time in Japan so far. I guess it is only nature because I work in the same field. While it is true that there are a lot of shitty English teachers in Japan, there are also some who are really good. It is hard for me to judge myself so I usually rank myself above average. I feel there is still a lot I need to learn before I can call myself an elite teacher. I still want to go though a TESOL or CELTA course to get the experience of formal, and effective, training. Most of what I have learned has come from actual teaching experience and shop talk with teachers I consider to be really good at teaching. Yet, there is one thing which I have spent endless hours talking about with some damn good teachers; lesson planning time.

It is a must to have enough lesson planning time. It frustrates me to no end when I am not given enough time to plan a decent lesson. I hate having to rely on just the textbook to teach a lesson. Actually, I prefer to use a textbook as only a guide when planning a lesson. Too many companies expect a teacher to beat the hell out of lessons from one textbook for several years. A lot of companies also will not offer any new material for the teacher to work with. Combined that with the fact that lesson planning is often reduced to 10 to 15 minutes, and any teacher who gives a damn will soon find themselves beating their head against the wall until they are left with a bloody stump for a brain.

I usually end up trying to write up lessons at home. I want to give students damn good useful lessons so I do all the leg work myself when I have the time. It usually takes me two hours to write up a decent lesson. I do it all when it comes to writing my own lesson. From topic, language to be taught, and activities it can take a while to put the whole thing together. This would not be such a big problem if it was not for the arrogance I run into from management. Usually foreigner management understand how damn hard I am trying and gives me little shit for writing my own lessons. Most of them encourage me to give it my all. Yet, the J-management can be the biggest gang of assholes when it comes to teachers who try to move beyond doing everything straight from the textbook. Let me be clear, this is not a anti-Japan rant. I am simply speaking from experience.

I have been mocked and laughed at by a lot of J-management when it comes to creating my own lessons. I don`t understand this at all. It is like they `be damned` if a teacher can go beyond the piss poor training they think is the end all of end all to shape a good teacher. Foreign trainers really do try hard but in many cases their hands are tied. They have to reduce training to nothing more than evaluations and little in the way of improving a teacher`s ability actually occurs. Try to talk to J-management about it and its like talking to a fucking brick wall. They just don`t listen to anything which comes out of a teachers mouth. I mean god damn what is it? Fucking pride! I am not in the habit of kissing someone`s ass just to get them to take me seriously. It is clear that I try damn hard to up my game as a teacher and if someone wants to laugh off my efforts then I consider that very sad indeed.

Apart from dealing with a damn brick wall attitude I still want to find a way to have more time for lesson planning. Usually, I work on lessons when I have nothing better to do but that needs to change. I am currently putting myself on a more strict life discipline plan and scheduling certain times to create lessons is going to be factored into this. I want to at least have three times a week in which I sit down for several hours and work on lessons. I know I will have to do this at home because the company I currently work for is not going to give me, or pay me, to be at work and create lessons instead of teaching. Well, I am not making my own lessons for the company. I am doing it for myself and the students. I believe that students deserve more than getting the same old tired lessons over and over again from a textbook which is way past it`s prime.

So what do yall think? How much time should a teacher need every week to plan lessons? I want to hear a lot of opinions so spread this post around to other teachers you know of who actually give a damn about quality.    


Chris said...

I was offered the top spot in a large School with 9? locations and the system that I had created on my off time to replace the existing "turn to page" lesson system which sucked.

I do everything I do with full force or I don't fuck with it. Everyone around me spent more time planning their next holiday than their job.

I partied harder than them AND smoked their ass when it was "show time". They couldn't fuck with me so they handed me the keys...which I refused because I'd be damned if I'm gonna work for anyone else.

Ignore...or assault dumb fucks that get between you and your focus time.

I take education very very seriously.

TheGhost said...

I feel the same way Chris. I am sick of dealing with lazy assholes who spend their time playing office politics and talking shit.
Students deserve more than just these damn `turn page` textbooks. I have an up hill battle but I am determined to win.

kathrynoh said...

Great post. Even though I've not been teaching for long, I'm lucky because I was working for a small company (who unfortunately had to shut up shop after the earthquake).

Anyway, after my first couple of lessons, I got told to start writing my own lesson plans and my boss sat down with me and helped me.

And yeah, the students deserve better than some boring text.

Corinne said...

Yup, don't miss the days of McTeaching. It sucked so hard because I had no control I started to not give a fuck and hated teaching the same boring thing every day. I now have my own school where I call the teaching shots and even though a lot is trial and error and I'm still learning every day, it's just so much easier when that freedom is there.

I recommend starting your own place if possible (you sound like a good teacher, students will follow you if you get the word out, and maybe a tiny bit of sabbotage ;) ) or trying to get work at a small school that allows teachers more freedom and planning time.

TheGhost said...

My long term goal is to open my own school. I want some more experience and save up for the starting investment.
I want to work for a smaller company with more of a fighting spirit. Also, with a smaller company they won`t be breathing down my neck as much. I can start reworking their system bit by bit until I make it my own.