Thursday, August 23, 2012

The lesson planner conundrum

This fall I begin my 6th year of teaching. Over the years some aspects of my job have become easier, but there is one ritual I do every single year in preparation for the new school year that just doesn't get any easier: picking a lesson planning book.

I apologize to any readers who are not teachers. Heck, I might even need to apologize to my fellow teachers out there for such a boring post! Maybe I'm the only person who has such a hard time picking a lesson planner every. single. school year! But it's my blog, so I'm writing this all down for posterity. Join me in my pain.

I have a few theories on why it's so hard.

For starters, I'm a middle school teacher and my local teacher stores in America seem to have forgotten that educators need tools after the 6th grade. Perhaps I'm the only middle school teacher who frequents the parent/teacher stores in my area, I dunno. But 98% of the teacher planners offered in the stores back home all say things like "The perfect planner for preschool teachers!" or "Great planning tools for the elementary teacher!"


Because everything is so heavily geared to the elementary teachers, I can never find a planner/record book-in-one that suits my needs. Have I mentioned I'm a middle school teacher? Well, I am. And because of that fact, I keep a lot of records: attendance for each section and each quarter or grading period I teach, grades for every section and each quarter/grading period, records of contact with parents for each student I teach (which this year will total somewhere around 125), behavior matrices for those days I'm doing informal assessments and don't have the time or patience to make up an excel spreadsheet.

I NEED A LOT OF RECORD PAGES, PEOPLE! And yet when I went to the parent/teacher store before leaving for this school year, the most pages I could find in the lesson planner+record book combos was 15!! FIFTEEN 2-page spreads to keep all my records on! That's only 3 spreads per section this year!

So what do I have to end up doing? I have to buy a lesson planner and a record book separately. Doesn't sound like such a big deal, right? Well...those who have ever had the pleasure of seeing my classroom know that my desk is always a hot mess. My students are frequently entertained by my search for the stack of copies that I just had in my hand and yet I can't find in the piles of paper that are on my desk. So my need for a record book and lesson planner in one is a serious necessity. Because nothing instills confidence in your student's teacher like when she spends 5 minutes of your parent/teacher conference tearing her desk apart so she can show you her evidence of your student's grades.

And now that I've added teaching in Islamic countries into the mix, my search is always going to be disappointing. Why, you ask? Because the printers of all the fabulous elementary school lesson planners pre-print the freakin' days of the week in the books! This is all very helpful and time-saving for teachers in predominantly Christian countries who work on a Monday through Friday school week...but in Kuwait, the work week is Saturday through Thursday! It's like they're plotting against me.

It's a hard life, folks, I tell ya.

Every year I go through the same dance. I stand in the planner aisle at the parent/teacher store and weigh the pros and cons of each option on the shelf. Do I sacrifice the record keeping pages? Do I want the long and skinny planner or the fat, notebook-like planner? Why do none of the planners have middle-school friendly sections to write in!? How can any teacher work with those huge, poster-like, wire-spiral-bound planners?! WHY CAN'T THIS STORE CARRY A PLANNER DESIGNED FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL INTERNATIONAL TEACHERS?!

By October I will have completely forgotten about how annoying the planner search is. I will have gotten into the habit of using my dual books and this struggle will be a distant memory. But in the mean time I thought I'd share with you the kinds of things that added to my pre-return flight stress. Like packing and airline fees weren't stress enough.

Vicariously yours,



  1. im an old saudi student old urs and i suggest that u should run for president if i could i would