Are lesson plans necessary? The debate in the staff pantry or canteen is often between two camps: for and against. I'm a former member of those against lesson planning, preferring to go with the flow than to conduct a lesson based on the plan. 'I joined to teach, not to conduct lesson plans!' Planning seemed like a waste of time, an unnecessary stifle. If we are to be student-centric, a lesson plan doesn't seem logical.
That position has matured in that I do not think it's a matter if lesson plans are necessary or not. Lesson plans are important, but it isn't the priority. It is necessary, but it isn't the emphasis.
Lesson plans are important because of the process. Crafting a plan means making explicit my intentions, emphasis and rationale. Expressing these is oftentimes humbling. What seemed like a great idea in my head is revealed as weak and full of holes when put on paper. Those darn boxes are so difficult to fill because I'd never considered them before.
Paradoxically, lesson plans enable learning to be more organic; for teachers to 'go with flow'. The process of planning forces the teacher to identify the range of options, to prioritise, choose and rationalise each decision. Hence, when the lesson takes an unexpected turn - as it often does - the teacher is able to adapt having considered the multiple pathways and actions that can be taken.
Finally, lesson plans are an important tool for professional learning. A tangible plan makes reflection much deeper because it is now possible to identify what part or aspect of the design and planning needs improvement. It's also a tangible product to share with others to critique, build on and improve.
As a corollary, lesson plans cannot be adopted; it is non-transferable. Each lesson plan ought to be an expression of a teacher or team and the context it is in. Adopting and implementing a lesson plan to the letter is to disregard the worth of the educator and ignore the uniqueness of the community. Yet, it is also important as a guide, a signpost pointing for everyone to learn together.
For me, it's about putting lesson plans in its proper place. Appreciating and embracing the process of designing and planning; respecting lesson exemplars as guides without reducing it to manuals or revering it as sacred texts.