These are three simple words that can guide you in your life and in your profession. As a teacher, you need to have a plan. This plan should be scalable with multiple time-lengths. Now that we’re close to the end of the year, many people are starting to think of their goals for the coming year.
The problem most people have with goal setting is that they greatly over-estimate what they can achieve in a year (or longer) and greatly UNDER-ESTIMATE how much they can achieve in a week. For daily goals, it seems that we also over-estimate what is achievable.
Having no plan means that you are rudderless, being thrown around by the tides and drifting to wherever the current takes you. That may be fun for a few years, but after a while, don’t you want to pick your own path?
There is also the opposite approach where you become a “stick in the mud” and are so rigid in your plan that you literally get bogged down and even though the current of life is trying to take you around an obstacle, you insist on going through it. It’s like trying to walk through a wall instead of going through the open door a few feet to the left.
I was a Boy Scout in my youth. I rose to the level of Senior Patrol Leader of my troop, which basically means that at 13, I was in charge of running the meetings and was thrust into a leadership position. I was scared to death! I mumbled and shifted and could hardly be heard. I was sent to some week-long training classes and gradually, over time, I got better. But at the core it all, was the motto: “Be Prepared.” This applies to everything In life.
As a teacher, I apply this motto daily by having a personalized plan for each and every one of my private music students. I keep records of what I taught previously and come up with an idea of what to teach at each day’s lesson. I also have longer range goals for each student with a public performance as the culminating goal.
In speaking to other music teachers, and even observing them, I’ve realized that not everyone thinks this way.
“I’ll just wing it,” they say.
Or, “I don’t need a plan, I’ve done this a million times.”
“It’s so simple, what’s the big deal?”
Did you know that every year, 250,000 people die from medical errors? In other words,doctors are the 3rd leading cause of death in America. And these errors happen during standard operating procedures - things they do every single day and should know by heart.
There’s now a movement to create simple checklists for hospitals. Checklists! Isn’t that what we give our kids to make sure they do all their chores and behave well?
Having a plan allows you to list your intended outcomes when you are conscious and fresh so that you can just follow your own plan later when you are busy, stressed and in the moment.
You might be thinking, “But I like to be creative and loose. I’m a creative soul and don’t want to be stuffed inside your box.”
Having a plan actually gives you freedom. It’s like the old conundrum of the writer facing the blank page:
“You can write about anything.”
“But I don’t know what to write!”
It really helps, having a focus, boundaries, and a box to stay inside of. Having lines to color within makes it easier to focus. Having the boundaries allows us to push to the edges of them and even occasionally “think outside the box.” But it’s the box that gave us the ability to focus.
A lesson plan is that box. It can also be a creative brief, a recipe, a business plan, or a life plan.
You’ll never stay exactly on script. And that’s what makes it all alive, exciting and relevant to the moment. You have a plan but you react to the moment. It’s just like driving across the country. You have a destination, and even a route planned, but you need to react to road closures, traffic and serendipity.
You can learn more about lesson planning and get some great templates in the unit on Structure in the Musicolor Method™ Online Training. There’s a special limited time offer going on now.
And, please, post your comments and questions below.