A Template for Change — and for Workflow

monstersA saying in the Israeli Army: “Kol tochnit basis tov l’shinui.” – Every plan is a base for change.

Two things strike me about this phrase.

One: the word “basis,” an imported English word, crouching down, hoping no one will notice, like a college freshmen smoking clove cigarettes because they’re supposedly cool, and impressing no one.

Two: I learned this gem over a decade ago in the Pardes Educator’s Program. I’ve quoted it numerous times, and I wanted some background. It appears, amazingly, only once on the Internet — not in the memoirs of some battle-weary Israeli commander, but rather, as quote-scraps from my friend and colleague Sean Herstein — another Pardes Educator. Now, Sean has taught for 11 years, and he has two daughters, so he is qualified, in my opinion, to quote old army phrases. That said, I think we must have both learned the phrase on the same day of class, and it makes me wonder if our mentor, David Bernstein, perhaps made it up to prove a point.

My use of it today, however, does not follow the original context. I generally read the phrase to mean that one should make plans, and yet know that reality will descend; the final plan might look nothing like the original, and yet, the ability to improvise flows best from a diagram and set of directions.

My use today is about a base for lesson planning: one solution with a million variations.

Q: How do I get students to enter class and set up, quietly? How do I take roll and set up my equipment when students are re-enacting “The Gladiator” in the back of the room? How do I start class in a way that creates community? How do I remember important information to relay to class and present it at the right time? How do I remember which student I wanted to talk to after class? How do I keep students focused when they finish activities? How do I communicate to students what the homework will be?

And the Meta-Question:

Q: How can I do all this without raising my voice?

Answer: Tochnit Tov L’Shinui.

The Template is my “blank page.” When I sit down to create my lesson plan, it’s not from scratch; even if I’m not sure what the content of the lesson will be, I know what happens when.

Here is my template: – WITH commentary: the Director’s Cut. At the end, I will include it without commentary, in case you’d like to steal it.

Each day, when I lesson plan, I paste the template into the class Google Calendar, and from there, I plan the lesson. Students log onto it as the first thing when they enter their room. They may not talk with me, except for emergencies (though we often differ as to what that means) and quick hellos –  I have setting up to do, and so do they.

The Template

TAB 1
TAB 2

Tabs are documents, pages, resources on students’ laptops. My class is paperless, so I will paste URLs of interesting articles or Evernote files, websites, or the name of a document in their Google Drive we’ve been working on. For your class, it could be worksheets. Handouts. Chapters in a book for them to bookmarks, for smoother transitions.

HELPDESK: https://todaysmeet.com

This allows students to alert me to issues they had with the homeowork, problems they anticipate, or anything else, without interrupting the quiet of the first 10 minutes of class. (The only other sound, at this time, is whatever music I’m streaming for ambience). I see the request for help on my iPad, and I decide, when I have a moment, whether and how deal with the issue.

HOMEWORK WAS: (grab a pass if you need it)

They used to ask. “What was the homework for today.” I used to say, “Look it up on the calendar.” But they kept asking. It takes me 2 seconds to cut and paste, and now, they don’t bother asking. They know. More quiet time for concentrated work.

BELL WORK:
1
2

Set inductions. Journal topics. An exercise. An exitticket. Stuff to help them move from “Who’s psyched for prom” to “Who can explain the theme?”

HOUSEKEEPING
-news and reminders:
-flight plan preview:
-homework preview:
-students I need to see:
-if you miss class:

All the stuff I used to hope I’d remember, or would write down, hoping to remind myself, and then, would forget to read my note. Now, it’s about 15 minutes into class, and I bang through it all at once. If it’s 9:45pm and I’m about to watch an episode of Mad Men and I suddenly remember something I need to mention the next day in class, I open the Google Calendar and jot it in Housekeeping.

FLIGHT PLAN (and allotted times)
1
2

I stole the name (Flight Plan) from master educator Tamar Rabinowitz. I like the explicit recognition that we’re all GOING somewhere, together.

ANCHORWORK
1
2

What students do when they’re done. Extensions. Enriching reading. Next steps. “Anchor” – as in, keeps them from floating away.

Homework 

You know.

I keep this Template on Googlekeep.com.

Q: What’s Google Keep?

I’m not sure anyone else uses it. It’s a glorified note-pad, and the only thing i keep on there is my template. I always know where it is. I copy and paste it, and I use it as my base-for-change.

Here is the Template, for you to play with: one solution will a million variations – plus the ones YOU add.

TAB 1
TAB 2

HELPDESK: https://todaysmeet.com

HOMEWORK WAS: (grab a pass if you need it)

BELL WORK:
1
2

HOUSEKEEPING
-news and reminders
-flight plan preview
-homework preview
-students I need to see
-if you miss class

FLIGHT PLAN (and times)
1
2

ANCHORWORK
1
2

HOMEWORK
1
2

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