When I first started teaching each day was a trial. Every lesson appeared to offer a storm of possibilities: a class full of students with differing abilities, prior knowledge, attitudes, and more. For a panicked novice, it was enough to keep you up at night.
My initial solution was to plan like my life depended on it. At first, there were some schemes of learning that were pretty fulsome, but others that had barely more than an outcome and a couple of simple ideas of how to get there. Despite my PGCE, I felt spectacularly underprepared. To give me a semblance of control, I planned my lesson introductions to the letter. Each proving effectively a script.
Of course, over time, a learnt a potted path to the relative comforts of being an experienced teacher. The scripts became automatic at the signal of a word or two. A few years in, I binned my lesson plans/scripts in a heavy stack. Today, when reading David Didau’s interesting blog on using pre-made lesson scripts, ‘Scripts: Whose lesson is it anyway?‘, it got me thinking about the utility of such teaching tools.
Now, from the comfort of over a decade of experience, I feel that the notion of using such a script is rather odd. Little over a year ago I would have considered such an idea an affront to my autonomy, but I’m now not so scandalized right now. Perhaps, with some proper time to plan collaboratively for such scripts, with a stable curriculum cycle, a license to deviate where appropriate for my students, they could actually prove a useful additional tool for busy teachers. A ‘knowledge organiser‘ of sorts. I know for my novice self, it may have proven something of a life-raft.
And yet, you can quickly observe the instinctive revulsion at the suggestion of teaching a lesson using a script from many. Let’s reflect upon the context of such a suggestion. Rather than consider the pragmatism of such a tool, particularly for new teachers, it is very easy to see the very notion of scripts interpreted as a further erosion of teacher professionalism.
Rightly or wrongly, teachers feel besieged by eroding working conditions and buffeted by changes to the curriculum (however good they may prove to be). The idea of being issued with lesson scripts provokes fears of ‘OFSTED outstanding’ style tick boxes for all, where a cult of managerialism triumphs over the necessary adaptability and decision-making prowess demanded of the very best professionals.
We appear to be at an impasse where not enough graduates want to join the profession, with many leaving at the same time. Whether it is true or not, many teachers are hearing the message that a highly trained teacher, with a degree and a teaching qualification, can be replaced with a lesson plan script and a plucky attitude.
Many teachers want a new policy script.
Rather than looking at no-degree apprenticeships, what about providing the time for deep professional development with the required funding to make teaching a masters level profession?
Young graduates want a career where they can make a difference to the world, but they also want professional prestige and the highest quality training opportunities. Doing it all on the cheap is never going to cut the proverbial mustard.
Rather than being offered textbooks and scripts to solve our workload issues, what about first starting with a stable curriculum that we can trust will stick around (a ten year moratorium on introducing significant curriculum changes in light of the new GCSEs and A levels would be a good start), alongside proper time to plan and improve collaboratively as highly trained professionals?
Indeed, if we secure some curriculum stability, then some decent textbooks and lesson plan scripts could be devised to evolve and support teachers to genuinely impact positively upon workload.
I can see how lesson plan scripts could help in some small ways, particularly for new teachers and non-subject experts, but this small, simple solution appears puny in the face of bigger, more complex problems.