Skinning the cat

Here's my shameful little secret: I don't course plan, not like I should anyway.  Oh I have a plan and I carry it out, but I could not produce for you anything that looks like a detailed lesson plan.  At best I could show you some scribbled Post-It notes or a few cocktail napkins.  But nothing that bespeaks the best practices of backwards-design or a detailed map that exquisitely links learning objectives to every activity and moment of the class. And I feel bad about this.  Have for years.

Don't get me wrong.  I aim at learning outcomes but I tend to feel my way toward them rather than Mapquest the route.  I just need to be in a course--thinking tactically, taking the measure of the room--to know what will work and what won't.   This is wrong, wrong, wrong, I know.   Even so, knowing this (and relative success teaching over the past two decades) hasn't yet lead me to change my ways.  So this semester I hit upon a plan to outsmart myself.

I am teaching in the same 'lost in a dark wood' way I always do, but I'm also keeping journals for each of my courses.  Every day I write down what I wanted to achieve and how I went about it.  In essence, I'm mapping what I do and explaining it to myself in real time.  The goal is to get the entire thing down on paper and then stand back and asses it, decide what's working, what needs tweaking.

The Rhetoric and Comp people tell me that nobody's writing process is really driven by those detailed and sub-sectioned outlines that English teachers once made us turn in with our final drafts.  It turns out the writing process is much messier, more recursive. 

Maybe teaching is too.


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