All prepped for the term!

“I’m all prepped for the new semester” they say with alacrity. I smile and nod but I don’t actually know what it means or if it is even feasible, let alone an enviable position to be in. Does it mean all the individual lessons for the whole term are planned? To the minute? Does it mean the course goals are written up? Does it mean the objectives for each session are already decided? Does it mean all handouts are printed up? Surely it means all the materials have been selected, right? I suppose it means all the assignments have been decided upon? And written up? With models and examples? Or does it simply mean the teachers have a general sense of what they want to do in the course? Does it mean they have outlined key questions, challenges and constraints that will inform their decision making? I truly don’t know. Sincerely. Any thoughts in the comments on what being “all prepped” for the term might mean would be appreciated.

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This statement seems to hit my ears more commonly in late August (just before the fall term starts here in Korea) but I have also heard it in late June. Late June after the semester just finished. When I hear the “all prepped” statement it sounds, perhaps just to me, a bit like bragging or as though they are announcing their professionalism and great organizational skills to the world. It could just be my imagination but that is how I hear it.

I have to wonder if there might be different beliefs about teaching and learning (and perhaps professionalism) at play here. For me, with my personal style and beliefs I’d find it very hard to say I was all prepped for a term before meeting my students. As an example, just today I finalized a weekly plan of topics and language points for the next 15 weeks for one course based on students’ needs and wants as discussed in class last week, which was the first week of the course. Even after completing and distributing the (sorta tentative) weekly schedule I cannot say that I feel “all prepped” by any means. I hope I will continue to fine tune my lessons work best for the students I in the course and the progress they do and don’t make throughout the course. I have a hard time seeing this view as controversial.

Maybe I don’t see the huge benefits in being fully prepared for the term well in advance because I know that I will inevitably end up collecting more information and changing my mind about things as the course progresses. I’m not saying I wildly change my plans from day to day and week to week without reason but do I try to base my lessons on what happened in class and not what I hoped would happen in class when I planned it 3 months in advance. I’m also not saying that my way is the best way and that I am always at the optimum balance of prepared and flexible. I’m really just wondering what “all prepped” means for others and what it could mean for me and how fruitful that would be for my students.

Another aspect that prevents me from getting and feeling all prepped for a term is my fear the schedule or course or details or students or something will change or even that the course will be cancelled. I have had so many last minute changes (yes, especially in Korea) and I always feel somewhat vindicated by not being completely prepared and thus somewhat flexible. It might sound like an excuse but this is a real factor preventing me from completing preparation what I’d consider too far in advance. Two Septembers ago I wrote about my desire not to do tons of work in advance for a course that might not end up happening and in my post I wondered if I was lazy or typical. Good on these diligent people who burn the midnight oil throughout the summer in advance of their autumn workload but I find it challenging to go beyond the basics, especially for courses that are not guaranteed to run. Certainly, circumstances could be different and other teachers could have more assurances or expectations their courses will be likely to run. In any case, I think I am too hung up on sunk costs and not interested in laboring away unless I am quite sure it will pay off. Again, I think we are back to personal preferences and styles.

I suppose my personal preferences, styles, beliefs, experiences and all combined with my confusion on what it actually means to be fully prepped make it hard for me to genuinely share the joy when colleagues tell me they are all prepped for the term. Sorry. Anyway, good for them if it gives them some comfort and makes them feel they are more prepared. Good for their students if this makes the learner process better. Good job everybody.

Well I’d love to stay and write more but I have to get all prepped for tomorrow’s class which starts in 11 hours. Thanks for reading!

 

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12 comments

  1. M. Makino

    Depending on the course and what the teacher means by “prepped”, I’d even consider it unprofessional to have a whole course laid out before it starts. Or maybe I just enjoy winging it too much.

    • mikecorea

      I have to agree with you on all points (and maybe I am guilty of enjoying winging it too much!). Thanks for the comments/insight. One thing I was thinking about as I wrote is that being “all prepped” is not necessarily a good thing and you made that point clearly here. Thanks!

  2. Marc

    I’m joining this wagon. Are you all prepared when the learners in front of you can’t perform prerequisite subtasks that you assumed they could? Where is your course progression now? Similarly, what if you have a much wider range of ability than expected? I think when I used to teach in lockstep with the target being parroting the teacher it was easier to feel prepared. Now I feel comfortable knowing I can react, and you plan your next reaction according to data capture.

    • mikecorea

      Thanks Marc,
      I think you make some great points here that are very much in line with my thinking.
      I have a feeling I might be missing something in terms of the benefits. Or maybe it is really about beliefs.
      Or maybe having the peace of mind of being all prepped is worth it for these folks (and even more valuable to them than the flexibility we hold so dear). Perhaps I was preaching to the choir a bit here in this post! Thanks again for reading and commenting!

      • Marc

        I know in mainstream education the amount of prep is a badge of pride. However, language teaching isn’t drip feeding info so maybe a way in which paths diverge.

  3. davedodgson

    In my experience that means the teacher in question has completed the tasks they have been assigned such as typing up a termly or yearly plan for the course or reviewing supplementary materials.
    For me, it means I have my timetable and I know the start date. 😉

    • mikecorea

      Thanks, Dave.
      Your version sounds a bit like my sense of being prepped.
      I guess my concern/question was really about “how prepped is all prepped?”

      Your point about assigned tasks is something I didn’t really think about.
      Thank you!

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