Friday, September 04, 2015

Lesson plans and life!

Who writes lessons plans? Okay, so I know that there are plenty of teachers out there who probably do/have to write detailed plans. After all, you can't turn up in a classroom full of 8 year olds and just wing it! And I suspect that this holds true across education from Primary to Postgraduate. So why am I thinking about tit?

Well, firstly because it's part of my Level 2 coaching course. I have to produce lesson plans for the coaching sessions I do. This involves not only having to plan the theme and the delivery of the content, but also a health and safety risk assessment, equipment list and a few other things along the way. It's a useful discipline, even if a bit tedious. It makes you think about how you are going to teach some aspect of tennis and how you are going to get everyone developing their skills.

Of course the thing about coaching is that you can wing it to a certain extent, but a plan tells you where you are going. I've been thinking about how I would plan a beginners course for example. I've been trying to work out how many lessons I would run, what would I do each time, how would I build the programme so that we cover the basic skills and get the time to practice them in a game based setting. I started by trying to write down everything that I thought you would need to know in order to play tennis. That's not just the basic shots, but how you score, where to stand, making decisions about what shot to play, etc. I listed 7 basic shots, but there are least another 6 or 7 I could easily add to that list, 4 basic court positions, 6 tactical intentions and 6 basic elements of play!

Who'd have thought there was so much to think about. After all surely tennis is simply about hitting the ball over the net and in the court!

Tennis is not the only thing that needs a lesson plan. What about some of your personal goals? I had a quick look back at a list of goals I set myself a couple of years ago. Some have been done (I finally built the cupboard in the extension and the partition in the garage), some have not been done, some aren't that important.

Now I'm not suggesting that you should write out a lesson plan for each goal you would like to achieve, but you need a plan. One of my goals is to get my tennis rating down. I'd like to get to a 7.1, but that might be more than I can manage. It's not impossible, but it needs a plan. For example, the only way to achieve it is to win enough matches against players rated the same as me or higher. So I need a plan for taking part in tournaments and ratings events. I think that once you get to 8.1, the win/loss ratio might come into play, but I'm not too sure. Need to look that up. The point is there are some identifiable steps to the process of reaching the goal. Suddenly I'm reminded of David Allen's Getting Things Done, and his point that a task that takes more than one step to complete is a project.

Is the reason you and I aren't reaching some of our goals because they need to be seen as projects not tasks? To get things done David Allen talks about identifying the next physical step you need to take to move towards completing the project. Identify the wrong step, and you'll get stuck.

Setting aside tennis for a moment (it's hard, but I'll try), think about some of your unfulfilled goals. Pick one, turn it into a project and identify the next step. You can apply this to losing weight, getting fit, learning a new skill, developing your prayer life, anything at all. Rather than wishing for the end result, you can make a plan. Rather than listing all the obstacles you might just be able to tick off a single step and begin to make progress.

You will need to remember to apply all those little strategies you've come across in the past. Things like SMART targets and rewards. Remember too the stages for learning something new. I've seen this set out as:

  • Unconsciously incompetent 
  • Consciously incompetent 
  • Consciously competent 
  • Unconsciously competent
In other words, you go from not knowing what you can't do to knowing what you can't do, to being able to do it and not have to think about it. If your goal is "big" then break it down into smaller goals, make it a project with achievable steps along the way. I want to organise my study again, and the thing that stops me doing it is that there is just so much to sort out. Doing some sort of plan would definitely help get on top of that particular project.

So, whilst I get somewhat frustrated having to write out these lessons plans for my course, I'm reminded of how useful planning is and that when it's done reasonably well, it actually is more liberating than restraining. When it comes to tennis lessons, a plan gives more room for creativity, no plan pushes you back to default coaching mode and you do the same stuff over and over again because you haven't thought about what you're trying to achieve. 

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