There is no such thing as being too prepared. Being prepared and even better, being over-prepared can be a very comforting thing in the first days of your teaching career.
A few years ago, while working as a head teacher at a private school I was responsible for observing new teachers. A recently hired teacher was going to be conducting a lesson on one of his first days in the classroom. He was to give me his lesson plan and I would quietly sit in the back of his classroom watching him teach and interact with his students. I was looking for many things while I observed. Was his lesson meeting curriculum needs? Was his lesson well planned and engaging for the students? Did he transition well between different activities? Did he manage the students well? How did the students respond to his teaching style and delivery? The list goes on.
What I saw was a nervous teacher speed through his lesson in half the time he had planned and then freeze. He quickly raced through his class material, not really stopping to see if the students were understanding and when he reached the end of his lesson, or should I say his lesson plan (there were still 30 minutes left in class), he literally stopped speaking. He nervously looked at the students and then me before rummaging through his teacher resource basket for a few moments. He then looked at me and said, “That’s all I have. I don’t know what to do.” His class was confused and looked at me. I told him he had 30 minutes to go and he had to do something for that time since it was his class. He panicked and I had to step in front of the class and off the cuff, create a writing exercise for them to do for the remaining time in that class period.
Although that teacher had clearly spent a lot of time planning his lesson, he wasn’t able to execute it the way he had hoped because he was simply too nervous. This is of course a very normal thing for someone who doesn’t have experience. The problem was that he didn’t have the experience necessary in order to have a “bag of tricks.” He wasn’t able to think of something off the cuff when his lesson didn’t go the way he had planned.
That teacher and many others out there in both Japan and Korea could save themselves from this uncomfortable if not terrifying experience if they just “over-plan” before their first few lessons. You might want to even do it for the first few weeks until you start to get more familiar with your new role as a teacher.
That teacher I observed should have created extra teaching material aside from his language lesson. Maybe he could have created or found a journal worksheet online. The students could have drawn a picture and written about whatever the class topic was. Maybe he could have had a few puzzles in his resource basket. He could have gone online and researched a few ESL or phonics games he could play with the children if his planned lesson came to an end faster than expected. All of these extra activities would have been a small “bag of tricks” for him in a time of need.
Another great thing about planning too much in the beginning of your teaching career is that those lessons or activities that you planned and did not use are by no means a waste of time. You can create and label some folders and store them away for later use. You might not use them today, but you may want to next week or next month. In time, as you become more experienced and capable as a teacher, you might even want to share those resources with newer staff members in your school. You may be new to your job, but near the end of your first contract, you will be the veteran teacher helping someone new who has started working for your school.
In time, and you will know when, you won’t need to prepare as much. As you become better at managing a class and creating effective lessons and lesson pacing, you won’t have to spend so much time preparing. Again, you will know when this happens. Some people very quickly become comfortable in a classroom environment while other teachers may take some more time.
I always felt more relaxed when I knew I had more than enough activities prepared for my class. You definitely will too.
Over the next few weeks I will share some more snippets of Teaching in Asia: Tales and the Real Deal. I will also keep you updated on the progress of the book (first draft is almost complete).
Here is a BusanKevin "classic" video. This was shot in 2009 and in it I'm telling a story about my first day teaching in South Korea in 2002. It also happened to be my first day teaching ever. It was a disaster to say the least!