Rob Newman

The enigma of lesson plans

Why do teachers hate them?

Why is it that schools have to fight the teachers to get them to do their lesson plans on time, or even do them at all? 

Let's face it; lesson plans are part and parcel of a teacher's work load. So, let's look at what a lesson plan is and why it is so important:

First and foremost a lesson plan is a tool. A tool that helps teachers organise their lessons so that the students can learn in a methodical and well structured way. It is also a tool for the school administration to let them know what you are doing in the classroom. 

Let's be honest, the school pays your wages, no matter how pitiful they may be, so they have a right to know you are doing your job correctly. In Thailand the Education Ministry also want to see what you, the teacher, are teaching the poor unsuspecting students. Yes I know the argument that nobody ever looks at them, but that isn't your problem, it's the schools.

The students are the ones that benefit most from a well prepared lesson plan. By the teacher preparing a lesson plan, the teacher is organizing their thoughts and ideas along with a coherent follow on from previous lessons. 

By following on and building from previously taught subjects the teacher is allowing the students the opportunity to review items that may not be clear in their mind, and put in place the necessary building blocks for language acquisition. Lesson plans also really do help the teacher, especially the teacher who has had no formal teaching training.

It's strange, teachers who are qualified teachers in their own country don't normally have a problem with making their plans, it is the teachers who come from a business background object the most . Strange that isn't it. You would think it likely that people who come from a business background would see the benefits of planning ahead, or am I being naive?

Why should the teacher have to plan their own lesson? Don't lesson plans come with a well designed syllabus or curriculum? Come on! Who knows the students better, you the teacher who sees the students all the time, or someone in an ivory tower who never sees a student? 

As a teacher you need to be flexible, if something you planned isn't working, change it. With a ready made lesson plan you can't change anything. You just have to keep fighting your way through the lesson. You don't do anybody any favours. With your own plan, you can change things on the spot, help those that need help, and rearrange topics into an order that the students can learn from. One thing I have learnt is: Every teacher teaches in a different manner.

Schools also want lesson plans in advance so that if you are absent, the teacher taking your classes knows what you have been doing, and can either continue where you left off or recap. You say you won't be absent, with the food in Thailand, you can never be sure.

We all know that once you do your lesson plans, nobody ever looks at them, but that isn't your concern. If the school asks you to do something that is in line with the real work of teaching, are giving you the time to do it, and are paying you a salary, why do you have a problem doing it? 

According to the schools, the ministry of education does sometimes pick on a school and go through everything with a fine toothed comb. The school never knows when or if it will happen. What they do know is if things aren't up to scratch they get jumped on.

P.S. Anybody who has ever worked with me will find this article ironic, as I am one of the worst lesson plan writers ever.


With pretty much ten years of teaching under my belt I know how to sort out a decent lesson. Moreover, I would be throughly embarrassed standing in front of students not having made the best attempt I am capable of to deliver content.

Here are my issues

A. Each school is different. Even if you teach an identical course it will vastly differ from one school to the next assuming your operating above bog standard schools.

B. I knew after X months I wanted to change schools. Primary reason was money but aggro not far behind.

C. Every year admins would get clever ideas to place me here or there to stop gaps. Usually, I'd be on my way out anyway but who wants to write a year's lessons only to be yanked here and there always without pay increase.

D. I have enough subject knowledge to carry the lesson and by the time I've crafted the PowerPoint it's all pretty much in my head.

E. I really detest learning objectives and crap like SWBAT. Lol, really? SWBAT?? Funny because they've had this ______ for years but still never glommed on. But now, super teacher students WILL be able to ...recite the fourth conditional backward. Even in the best Thai classrooms it's Thai EFL there are limits.

F. I'm learning and growing. Despite teaching the same thing I'm looking for fresh ways especially with technology to deliver content.

G. I spend waaay too much time in this job already. Despite having a sound knowledge of my course content I still spend huge amounts of time with my head in the job. Before everyone else says me too - no, I've only known one teacher in nearly ten years that bests me for hours dedicated.

H. I put some detail into course outlines.

I find most teachers simply can't be bothered with any of it. A teacher you've already identified as unimpressive then you find no lesson plans, course outlines or any direction - that's clear indication of a fraud.

By Jim Beam, The Big Smoke (15th November 2021)

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