The Lens of the Week

Many years ago, when I first read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I was struck by Stephen Covey’s advice to “plan weekly, adjust daily.” As we come to the end of the first week of school in my face-to-face teaching world, I’m struck once again by the profound simplicity of Covey’s approach. It was a lot harder to do in the age of Pen and Paper Planners, but even then (when “plan weekly, adjust daily” meant “copy things from your weekly planner page to your daily planner page”) it was an excellent approach. To the best of my knowledge, Covey coined the phrase the lens of the week. He certainly uses it a lot in his writings, and I think it’s an excellent metaphor and an excellent approach to all kinds of planning.

Excellent, but time-consuming. Like weekly lesson planning, with daily adjustment, in the pen-and-paper world where I started teaching so many years ago.

When I read Covey’s early books, I was teaching in an environment where lesson planning meant “fill in this weekly form, with teeny-tiny boxes for each class, in pen or pencil, and turn it in so it can be put in a file, because the purpose of lesson plans is to turn them in.” To be fair, even in that environment, I struggled to fill those teeny-tiny boxes with meaningful activities for my students, and so did many of my colleagues. We tried to make sure that the focus was on students and their learning rather than our presentation of information. And we tried to remember that the real purpose of lesson planning was to prepare meaningful learning experiences for my students.

It was hard – partly because crossing things out and moving them from teeny-tiny box to teeny-tiny box was physically difficult, but mostly because the school culture said, “Why bother?” After all, the purpose of lesson plans was to be turned in and filed. The lens of the week was there, but only because that’s the way the form was laid out. And I’m not sure how many of my colleagues actually looked through that lens!

In my current face-to-face teaching world, we’ve consistently used the lens of the week – and not just because of the old, abandoned form. But now we’re trying to make a different kind of shift: from lesson plan as list of activities for the kids to do to lesson plan as learning targets for the learners to meet. I talked a bit about one version of the new planning process – the one that World Language teachers in my district are encouraged to use – in a post a couple of days ago. And I still love this new process, as I think I implied in my (delayed) post for yesterday. It’s really shaken me out of my comfort zone – the one called “But I liked this sequence of activities in 2004 or whenever!” And it’s forced me to rethink those sequences … and sometimes to abandon them altogether.

That’s good for me and good for my students. After all, they are not the same as their counterparts in “2004 or whenever!” And they’re very different from their counterparts in 1992!

But some ways, that shift is even harder than than the one from lesson plan as document to be turned in to lesson plan as sequence of learning activities. It’s hard to let go of the familiar old sequence of activities, but it’s even harder to let go of the industrial paradigm behind it. Lesson plan as sequence of activities is based on a paradigm of school as a place where standardized inputs get standardized processing. It’s an assembly line, perfectly designed to manufacture future workers for a 20th-century factory world.

But we know that world is gone.

When it’s available, I’ll post a link to Steve Hargadon‘s interview with Michael Strong, which I was listening to on Thursday evening right before I started drafting this post. I loved the interview for several reasons:

  • Steve Hargadon is a great interviewer anyway.
  • Michael Strong is a big proponent of the Paideia approach to learning … and if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know how much I’ve been influenced by Paideia.
  • Strong has actually “walked the talk” and founded a number of non-factory-model schools.
  • He said … well, I’m not going to tell you what he said! Not yet! But it was really good … and some of it was directly relevant to the shifts I’ve been talking about here. And all of it helped me work on the lenses and perspectives I need to use in this phase of my teaching life.

As this week draws to a close, and as a holiday weekend approaches in the U.S., what lenses and perspectives are helping you, and which ones are giving you trouble?

quid respondētis, amīcī?

Published in: on August 31, 2012 at 4:14 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. This was so helpful for me today as I’m working on plans for next school year. Great perspective and practical, too. Thanks for the encouragement!

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