- Go into this school year knowing you can’t be prepared for every possible scenario.
- Plan to change your plan, and prepare to be unprepared.
- Now is the time to take risks and try new things—even if you fail.
- You learn and grow from every failure and put yourself in a position to succeed the next time.
Hey, how’s your planning going for the upcoming school year?
Yep…I totally just saw your eyes roll, heard your stomach groan, and you sigh in absolute frustration. I get it. The truth is, we don’t know what the next week holds for us, let alone the next several months. Most likely, you will begin your school year one way, and then you’ll need to adjust often, and potentially drastically, throughout the year.
One of the most common things we’ve been hearing from teachers all over the country is, “I don’t know what to plan for.” What I’ve been trying to recommend as much as possible is planning for the most restrictive scenario possible.
Whether you start back fully virtual, blended, or in person, there’s a very good chance that A) at least some of your students will be virtual all year, and B) you’ll need to shift to a virtual classroom at some point during the coming year. So, if you plan for this scenario—the most restrictive scenario—you’ll be better prepared for the others.
However, even if you plan for that, there’s a good chance you don’t yet know what that scenario will entail. Will you be required to teach virtually, but from within a classroom? Will you have the freedom of a flexible schedule? Will you be required to have specific live instruction time every day? What kind of “office hours” requirement will be in place? What about communicating with and supporting students who can only do work later in the evening? The list of questions goes on and on, and can quickly become debilitating.
You can’t be prepared for this.
Here’s the truth: You can’t control it. Period.
You can plan for it, but that plan probably won’t be the same in a month. You can take Jeff’s advice and plan for the most restrictive environment, but who knows if fully virtual will actually be the most restrictive? I mean, we all want to get back in the classroom with students, but with all the social distancing guidelines in place, that “in person” scenario may actually be more restrictive than being fully virtual. At least in a virtual setting, kids will have some freedom and flexibility around how they move and act, versus having to sit in a specific space, not touch things, etc.Dig deep. Get back to your WHY. And when it all seems to be too much to handle, remember that WHY. Use it to guide you. To pick yourself back up. To remind yourself that you are an educational rock star who is built for the unknown. Click To Tweet
So, then what the heck do we prepare for? How do we prepare for any of this?
My answer: You prepare to be unprepared. You plan to not plan. You set yourself up to fail intentionally.
Prepare to be unprepared.
I like to pump people up. I love to encourage people, help them realize how awesome they are, and make them feel good about themselves. So this one may come off a little harsh: You’re not prepared for this. And you’re never going to be prepared for it.
There were no classes on how to be a teacher, or a principal, or a tech coach, or a consultant, or a parent, or heck, a person, during a global pandemic. None of your textbooks from college included lesson planning for three thousand different potential scenarios. No one told you that you would be expected to carry the weight of the country and economy on your back in the year 2020.
No one prepared you for this.
Here’s the thing though, you actually ARE prepared for this. You’ve been preparing for this your entire career, you just didn’t know this was what you were preparing for. You’re a teacher. You do one of the hardest, most consistently inconsistent jobs in the world. Every day is different. Every day brings new, unexpected challenges. Your role changes, your responsibilities change, your leadership changes, your community and how it views your school changes, and your students change. Every second they seem to change their minds, moods, and responses to the content.
Every year, you prepare for the school year. And every year, it seems like all that preparation goes out the window on day one when you meet your students, find out about that new mandate, or discover a new resource that changes everything.
You’ve never been prepared…yet, you’ve always been ready to be unprepared, to adjust, to shift, to make it happen for your students. Things are bad right now, and they may very well get worse. And the expectations being put on you are ridiculous, unfair, and seemingly impossible. But the expectations the world has had for you have always been ridiculous, unfair, and seemingly impossible.
You are responsible for educating every other profession in the world. You are responsible for molding the minds that will lead our world. I mean, holy smokes, think about that. You are literally responsible for teaching kids how to eventually run the world. That’s freaking insane when you think about it. Those are some serious expectations and responsibilities to be put on a profession that is so severely underpaid, underfunded, and underappreciated.
Right now is different.
Somehow, though, you’ve always done it. You’ve always fought through the unexpected and unreasonable changes you needed to make. You’ve always dealt with the lack of appreciation, lack of funding, and lack of respect for the enormously important job you do. And you have always been ready to be unprepared.
Right now is a little different. This is a much different level of unrealistic expectations, mixed with a different set of unfair responsibilities. You’re not prepared for it. The good news is, you’ve been preparing to be unprepared. You’re going to get through this. And then, after we get through this craziness, you’ll be that much more prepared for the next unfair and unrealistic set of expectations the world throws at you.
Plan to not plan.
We talked about this in our book, “Teach Better,” but I’ll summarize it here. You plan all the time, and right now you might be planning more than ever due to the ever-changing information we’re getting daily. So now, more than ever, the most important thing you can do is to plan to change your plan. Establishing a plan for the year is important, especially when you’re expecting to have to make lots of adjustments on the fly.
So, how do we plan to adjust on the fly—possibly all the time?
By focusing on the most important part of your planning: your WHY. As we continue through this year and into the new school year, and everything changes seemingly every day, your WHY will guide you. It is what will ensure every plan you lay out, every adjustment you make, and every new challenge you’ll be forced to overcome, will all be for the well-being of your students.
I won’t lie to you, this year you are probably going to adjust your plans every day, every minute, every second of every day. But guess what? You’ve always done that. You’ve always assessed the ever-changing needs of your students, and adjusted constantly to meet those needs. And it has been your WHY that has not only allowed you to get through those oftentimes difficult adjustments, but that has also guided those decisions.
So, how do we plan for this seemingly un-plannable (is that a word?) situation? Dig deep. Get back to your WHY. And when it all seems to be too much to handle, remember that WHY. Use it to guide you. To pick yourself back up. To remind yourself that you are an educational rock star who is built for the unknown. And then use it to get it done…whatever the IT is for that day.
Ok, Jeff…sooooo, you want me to fail? Yes…yes I do. I want you to try things, mess things up, adjust what you do, and then try some more things. And yes, I want you to mess those things up too. It’s how we learn, how we grow, how we get through these unprecedented times. We try, we fail, and we try again.
When I say I want you to fail “intentionally,” I don’t mean that I want you to actually try to fail. What I want you to do is to be ready to fail. Be ready to try things that don’t work. Take some risks, try new things, and fail at them so you can learn and grow from them, and be better for the next thing.
I know it still sounds a little off: failing intentionally. But when you intentionally try new things, attack new challenges, and take risks, you’re going to fail. So when you make the decision to go after it and try, you’re intentionally putting yourself in a position to fail. You’re also putting yourself in a position to succeed. You’re setting yourself up to win. You’re giving yourself the opportunity to learn and grow and be better. When you fail intentionally, you also succeed intentionally. Because with every failure, big or small, there is an opportunity to succeed.[scroll down to keep reading]
You’ve got this.
The truth is, I have no idea how this year is going to go. I have no idea how hard it is going to be for you. And I have no idea how long this pandemic will last, or how bad it is going to get.
What I do know is this: You’ve got this. Even when it feels like there is no way you can figure it out, no way you can deal with another change, no way you can handle the stress, frustration, and pressure being placed on you…you’ve got this.
You are ready for this. You can handle this. You WILL get through this. Because you are a teacher. And there is no group of people better prepared for this insane new world we’re in than you, the teachers.
I appreciate you.
About Jeff Gargas
Jeff Gargas is the COO and co-founder of the Teach Better Team, and co-author of the Teach Better book. Prior to co-founding Teach Better Team, Jeff was the owner of ENI Multimedia, an online marketing firm, where he worked with entrepreneurs and small businesses, assisting them with web design, social media, content marketing, and brand awareness.
Prior to all of this, Jeff was an adjunctive professor at Kent State University and spent 10+ years in the music industry. He has spoken at conferences around the country, and has successfully promoted more than 500 events and launched 7 businesses in a variety of industries.
Jeff is passionate about music, and enjoys spending time with his family as often as possible. He is also a member of the Teach Better Speakers Network.