I have talked to several Filipino English teachers working in Nonthaburi and have gathered information about what they dislike most about teaching. They said monthly visits from the inspector, doing school gate duty in the mornings and afternoons, selling at the canteen, checking test papers and notebooks, lesson planning, faculty meetings, handling extra-curricular activities, training students for competitions and reviewing students for the O-net are all among the many things they dislike about being a teacher.
Many of the things they said I also dislike, but lesson planning is the one I don't like most. Why is this so?
You see, when I do my lesson plans, I always spend a lot of time preparing them. I don't only plan for the lessons but also prepare teaching materials. Many years ago, back in my country, I prepared lessons for several levels in various subjects. I also prepared English lessons from Kindergarten to Grade 6. During a Teacher's Day celebration in my country I was asked, "Sir, what do you hate doing as a teacher?" I replied without hesitation - "lesson planning!" The other teachers' eyes turned wide in amazement.
There was another instance in a seminar at Chulalongkorn University when a speaker, after assigning the task, made her rounds while we, the participants, wrote parts of a lesson plan and an explanation of each part. I didn't realise she had noticed my uneasiness and she checked whether I had been listening to her by examining my work. Then she asked me to make a presentation to all the other participants. I was hesitant at first but I thought that I could win her over and overcome my nerves and embarrassment. After I presented, a lady approached me, "Sir, were you a supervisor before?" she asked. I just smiled back.
I had a negative attitude towards lesson planning before but when I won a grand prize in a national lesson plan writing contest in the Philippines, sponsored by one of the country's leading publishing house, I had a sudden change of heart. I bagged 50,000 pesos (more than a thousand dollars) for the first prize. It also gave me the privilege of writing a textbook. Because of that I was hired by a school to work as a consultant in lesson planning.
Lesson planning is a routine task that has now got into my system, yet if I had my choice, I would get rid of it. But how? So several times I tried teaching without a lesson plan? Do you want to know how it turned out? I think they were better than my planned lessons. The lessons were so smooth, so natural, so much fun and more exciting. The students enjoyed my unplanned lessons more too. What if there was no lesson planning at all?
Over the past years, I have dreamt of simple lesson plans like what we used to do in one result - oriented private school I once worked at. With a simple plan, we did an outline of the things we would do each day. It was all then written down in a memo pad. The teachers who didn't plan were every bit as effective as the teachers who spent hours and hours on lesson prep.
In my experience as an English supervisor, consultant, and English coordinator, lesson planning is a must. Planning the lessons before coming to class gives the teacher confidence to teach but lesson plans serve only as a guide. They can be adjusted, modified, added to or improved to meet students' needs.
Do I still make lesson plans? At present, no. Last month, I was privileged to be part of a 15-man committee who made lesson plans for more than a hundred teachers in our project to be used for the whole year. Isn't it wonderful? Everybody's most hated task became a thing of the past. Now the only thing to look forward to is the execution of these plans, which I'm certain all the teachers are keen in doing.
I hope that schools in Thailand will follow suit. Having ready-made plans accessible to EFL teachers makes English teaching in Thailand easy, more fun and very enriching.