I used to treat lesson planning like I was packing for my holidays. Little care and attention to neatness but loads of…stuff. Whether it was needed or not I’d use all my will to get a seemingly endless amount of material into a distinctly finite amount of space:

Grammar starters in the airline approved see-through plastic bag? GET IN THERE!

Handy individual sachet of  extension exercises? PUSH IT WITH YOUR FEEEEEET!

If there was an iota of unused air I was there stuffing it with another mini-activity or lesson objective. Because you never know when you’re going to need a spare lesson objective. I mean, it might rain or something.

I would pack that lesson plan full of sweet, sweet learning then sit on the bugger whilst I did the zip on it. Come lesson time I’d wheel the thing into the classroom, pull the zip like a ripcord then sit back and watch the fireworks. Shock and Awe Teaching.

‘Double English’

I tell you my friends, there was such engagement. To be honest, there couldn’t not be. It was a barrage. You couldn’t hide from it or shield yourself. Some brave souls tried in a valiant attempt to preserve their ignorance. They’d use a textbook to bat away the first group activity. They’d deftly parry the cloze exercise as it whizzed by like a bullet from the left. They’d relax for a second, thinking the worst was over and then


Right between the eyes with an air-to-surface word-search.

The stuff would just kept coming out of that lesson plan like Pandora’s box. I had unleashed a furious whirlwind of activity where I was master of the madness cackling wildly at the chaos and they didn’t know what hit them. Not a second went by without me shoving some delicious activity down their throats. I was new. I was the best there ever was and I would TEACH THEM ALL THE THINGS!

I was also incredibly frightened by what would happen if I stopped.

Petrified even. I thought that any break in the action, any lull in the advance would be taken as an opportunity for mutiny. A pause for breath would be filled with a shouted obscenity. Stopping to reflect would result in gladiatorial combat. This wasn’t all inexperienced teacher paranoia either. A great many classes I had back in days of yore (and a great many classes since and a great many now) would take any opportunity given to cause havoc. So, with that in mind and with a kind of cold, horrible logic, I decided to simply take away the opportunity and fill every moment with stuff. If they were occupied with stuff then there was less chance of them being occupied by chewing on each other. Simple. Genius. Best teacher ever.

Not quite.

There were a couple of tiny problems I hadn’t factored in, hence this being a post on a blog and not an extract from my best-selling book How to Teach the Crap out of Kids and Be Amazing. (RRP 19.99 or 27.99 for Limited Edition with extra-added awesomeness.)

‘I purchased your book – now look at the size of my hand! All the better to clean whiteboards! Thank you!’

Firstly, it was just stuff. You can’t pack a suitcase that tight and it all be quality content. It was filler there to do one thing and one thing only: keep them occupied. Now, keeping them occupied doesn’t necessarily equate to teaching them anything of use; it helps, but it’s not a given. I sacrificed quality for quantity because I was scared of what might happen if I slowed down and eventually it got to a point where, for all the song and dance, I figured that there was a lot less decent learning going on than I was ready to accept. Think about it like this: if it is quality content, it’s too precious to be blown out there like a shotgun blast. It should be wielded like a scalpel.

Secondly, the packing approach is absolutely knackering. Fatigue soon sets in for both you and the poor shell-shocked kids. If you’re knackered you neither teach or learn well. And eventually you’ll be back to square one (but with the extra problem of zero energy to fight the good fight).

So what did I do? Well,  I dropped the bulging suitcase and took with me a sleek leather holdall that would snugly fit in the overhead baggage compartment. Still pretty full but manageable because I’d cut away the fat. The unnecessary stuff. The stuff that didn’t matter. I even allowed myself the luxury of a little space. Because you’ve got to let it breathe. Hell, you’ve got to let yourself breathe.

I’m not going to tell you that slowing down and improving the resources helped with behaviour because it didn’t. If you want to hear that then there’s lots of books you can buy that peddle that guff. What it did do was change my attitude towards said behaviour. I knew what I was doing was good. I knew the resources I had were good. I was less tired and less frantic. These things combined to make me a little less frightened of the parts in the lesson where it would kick off (and believe me, it would) and I was more able to accept that and deal with it accordingly. Also, having developed my 10 Golden Tips to Perfect Behaviour didn’t hurt either.

What are those? Well, you’ll have to wait for my upcoming book How to Teach the Crap Out of Kids and Be Amazing (RRP 19.99 or 34.99 with signed copy of myself looking all brooding and manly).

I wouldn’t want to put them in here.

That would be far too much stuff for one post.


  1. Pingback: Fireworks teaching: why less might well be more | David Didau: The Learning Spy

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