I am typing this post after over 2.5 hours of lesson planning for school. I am not yet experiencing the same joy I used to feel.
I teach 17 classes a week to kids in 7 grades. So I am "only" planning 7 lessons a week - far fewer than my dear colleagues who teach that many lessons in one day. And my lessons have to be short enough to fit in a 40 minute period where I need to check in returned books and check out new books for anywhere from 10 to 25 students in a group as well as teach the lesson. Right now, I am just trying to plot out all of the library orientation material I need to cover depending on the age and skill level of the group. I'm having a hard time even remembering what all I taught last year.
My main challenges are
- My preference to plan a full week at a time. My first day of teaching classes was a Thursday. I have 4 classes on Thursday and 4 on Friday, so about half of my load. But in those two days, I taught two of my fifth grade classes. I didn't see the other one until Wednesday of the following week. So, during the first full week of classes, I spent three days (nine classes) covering our orientation material and two days (eight classes) covering Week 2 material (the always thrilling discussion of shelf markers!). After two full weeks of classes, we have a Monday off for Labor Day. It will take me about a month of classes to arrange the material so that the three fourth grade classes (which meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday) are all on the same lesson in the same calendar week. This problem continues throughout the year thanks to breaks and school events and book fair, etc. I've already plotted out the dates of meetings through December so I can see where my partial weeks are and try to plan around them.
- Planning developmentally appropriate lessons. I am still learning what books and what concepts work with which ages. Two years in a row now, I have read Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? to my kindergarten students and both times it has completely bombed. I finally got smart and started keeping a file of books I am using, what lessons I do with them, and when they work and don't work.
- Planning lessons that prepare kids for more than just finding a book in the non-fiction section of any library. Library usage skills are important to me. Not only do they minimize the cyclone-like appearance of the library when a class leaves, but I believe they are skills necessary for life-long learning. But I want my students to leave with so much more - a love of reading, an appreciation for the impact a well-written story or well-developed character can have on your heart and mind, an understanding of the world that can come from digging into a well-written non-fiction book, a new depth of understanding of Scripture that can come when you know how to read for understanding.
- The overabundance of material available to me. I almost have too many choices as far as lesson material. I have the things I did last year (some of which worked and some didn't). I have fun things I have found online from other teachers. I have a file cabinet full of material from my predecessor that I haven't even had time to open. I have shelves of library magazines full of lesson ideas.
- The pressure of having to develop a scope and sequence by October. I knew this time last year that I had to put together a scope and sequence of lessons for each grade level by this October. I had every intention of doing it this summer, but it didn't happen. In part, that is because of the other library projects I was doing instead. But honestly, part of it is because I hate having to commit to a scope and sequence this early in my librarian/teacher journey. I have so much to learn. I have so much material (see previous bullet point). I'm afraid the minute I submit this curriculum plan I'm going to hate it and want to do something completely different (or I'm going to try to implement it and find it's a complete flop)!
What's sad is that I realize this 150 minutes I just spent was really just for formatting an outline of what I'm going to do on certain days - and I haven't even finished all of September yet - not even planning the exact lessons.
I am expecting to feel a lot better about the manageability of my teaching life by October. I haven't lost the hope of someday being able to leave school at 3:15 again!