Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Best Laid Plans. . .

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
And lea'e us nought but grief an' pain
For promised joy!
- Robert Burns, To a Mouse, 1786

I remember my mom paraphrasing this poem when plans failed. She'd say, "The best laid plans often go awry."  Teachers know that experience well.  We meticulously plan our days to best meet the needs of students.  We plan to meet goals in the social, intellectual and motivational realms of learning daily.  But, as the poem suggests, sometimes our plans go awry.

What is the best response when this happens?

First, it is important to stop, even if it's midstream.  Stop and question aloud with students, "Let's take a look at what is happening now.  Our goal is _____, and what's happening is ________.  What can we do about it?  Enlisting students' awareness, voice and ideas brings the class together and moves the lesson forward.

Next, make a decision. Sometimes, the best decision is to discontinue the event and move to something peaceful giving all a chance to reflect.  Sometimes, it's better to move forward with renewed pace, focus, process and/or attitude.

At the end of the day, it's essential for an educator to reflect and determine what the plans gone awry have to say about the class, plans and goals.  Usually plans gone awry offer insight and renewed direction for the days to come.

It's part of life that the "best laid plans go awry" and it's part of education that students recognize that.  It's also part of education, that student's and teachers know what to do when that happens so that classrooms continue to be vital, responsive, student-centered learning arenas.