Before its too late

Due to some genuinely misspent time viewing late night crime dramas on TV, I have come to a conclusion that post-mortems are bad.

Let’s be honest, it’s an already dead person – often brutally murdered – being unceremoniously picked over by a scientist. There seems to be some assumption that finding the one stab wound that finally finished them off will, in some way, impact their current status.

It won’t of course. Post-mortems are always conducted juuuuuust a little bit too late.

I prefer pre-mortems. The notion of a pre-mortem is that you shouldn’t wait until something dies to work out what went wrong.

Conducting a pre-mortem is an act of identifying the big risks of death/failure and then mitigating those risks.

Instead of planning for a perfect lesson, waiting for that lesson to suck and then analysing why it all went wrong, assume beforehand that the lesson will be a disaster and then ask “What would the cause of this lesson’s death likely be?”

Could the lesson die if just one or two particular students were to struggle? Well, do some differentiating of task or have some alternative, but connected, activities planned.

Could the lesson die if the tech were to fail on you? Well, ensure you’ve printed out your slide deck.

Could the lesson die if your explicit instruction is too interrupted by behaviour? Then record your instruction prior to the lesson and have the students watch it on a device.

We have a habit of planning only for the best possible outcome in schools and, while being aspirational isn’t necessarily bad, I just prefer having a plan that respects the wildly unpredictable reality of most classrooms.

And that realism sometimes compels us to answer some inconvenient questions. Like “What could possibly go wrong?”

Keep fighting that good fight,

PS. Over the last couple of months we’ve been giving away (just the P&H to pay) copies of my book Restoring Teaching to every teacher in Australia who wants it. Feel free (see what I did there) to forward this email to any teacher you know who could do with a good read during the looming mid-year break.


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