Penny S-K explores different approaches to planning, and how to get the best out of your teaching personality.
Several years ago, I worked with the most incredible teacher. Let’s call him Bob. Bob was the kind of teacher we all aspire to be: he was liked and respected by students, had excellent subject knowledge, and delivered consistently good Key Stage 3 and GCSE results. He wasn’t a saint though – he could occasionally be snappy with staff and his desk looked like it had been the victim of a highly localised whirlwind. But he was a great teacher.
Like all of us, though, Bob had an Achilles heel: buying resources. He couldn’t stand it. In his opinion, a truly great teacher planned all their own lessons from scratch. They didn’t buy a single worksheet or SoW or study guide. He claimed it was lazy teaching to rely on the resources of others. You needed to have passion for your subject, he said, and that meant that you needed to create everything yourself. And, because I liked and respected him (and because he got such great results), I believed him.
Proving your passion: is it worth it?
For years, I thought that to use someone else’s resource was cheating. If I downloaded or borrowed so much as a worksheet, I felt guilty. I was passionate about English, and I knew that if I didn’t demonstrate that passion by writing every single lesson myself, I would be doing my students a massive disservice. So I worthily slogged into the small hours every weekday, creating beautiful bespoke resources for my classes. And then marking. And then doing all the admin. And then turning up to school on five hours’ sleep, ready to teach 150 students.
And guess what? I got very, very tired. Creating everything from scratch was killing my passion. And possibly killing me.
The penny drops
It took a while for the penny to drop. But when it did, it was a clanger. I liked Bob. I respected Bob. But he was wrong about this. Terribly, terribly wrong. He had confused passion with planning.
And here’s what I realised: the best teachers are the ones who have passion for their subject. The ones who inspire students with their love and excitement and wonder. If you can do that, if you can make a student buzz with excitement and smile and gasp and just get it, then you have succeeded. And it doesn’t matter a jot who created the resources which get them there. It’s how you teach them. It’s how you inspire them that matters.
It was a Damascene moment for me. I realised that I could bring the passion, and leave the planning to others. For the first time, I downloaded and used someone else’s SoW – and it was fantastic. Of course, I changed the odd lesson, delivered the teaching in my own way and in my own style. But I found that because I wasn’t surviving on five hours’ sleep any longer, I was actually enjoying my subject again. I had reignited my passion.
And Bob? Well, he huffed and puffed a bit when he found out I was using downloaded resources. But my results were good, the students loved my lessons, and I was healthy. It’s hard to argue with that kind of logic.