All plans should be contingency plans, in case something better does not come along. Consider them to be Plan B. We are bound to miss so much, if we stick to our plans. I noticed this today, as summer vacation is winding down. I planned to spend this morning reading and working, while my children played at home, at the neighbor’s house or at the park. Those plans changed when one son decided to ride his bike,which he has not yet mastered, to the park. So, I went along, as did my neighbor (not her original plan either). It ended up being such a nice time; as we chatted, the kids played. My son has renewed interest in riding his bike. Then, after lunch we packed up to go to the pool. My other son had decided how long he wanted to stay. His plan was for us to be home by 4:00. While we were at the pool, he ended up meeting new friends and had so much fun playing with them. He abandoned his original plan. If we were not open to those changes, our day would not likely have been as good.
I feel the same way in the classroom sometimes. I try to go with the flow when the class goes in a different direction than I anticipated, but I think I still try to force the plan too often. We have all been in classrooms and seminars where the teacher orchestrates the discussion and the activities to achieve a certain outcome. Many would argue that is just good teaching, but I am not sure it is great learning. I think it encourages students to simply play along or try to figure the teacher out without any real ownership of the learning.
I can envision a classroom where my time does not go into planning because the students help to set the course of the class each day. While I do less planning than I used to, I am not ready to jettison my planning yet. Students are really not accustomed to being trusted to direct their learning, and I would have to think through multiple plans, as it is not likely everyone could agree. In fact, it might just favor the loud voices in the room. I would like to encourage more disruption of my plans, though, to more fruitful, meaningful outcomes for the students.
So, for now I will keep on planning, but I will think of my plan as Plan B, the back-up plan. This will likely drive my colleagues crazy, as we work on collaborative teams, but it feels more true. We need to be sensitive to recognize opportunities whether they are part of our original plans or not. I am convinced the greatest experiences, large and small, are the result of some kind of serendipity.