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You Are Only as Good as Your Last Lesson

As teachers, if you were to plan every lesson like it was your last, the result would be amazing. Learn why this technique works to create great lessons.


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Tavian jean-pierre

3 years ago | 5 min read

Photo by Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash
Photo by Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash

I will never forget my coach telling me this after a bad game of basketball. I underperformed, and everyone was surprised. My team knew I was a good player, and we’re confident that I would show up in the next game.

It was nice to receive the comforting words from my teammates, but my coach was not impressed. After the game, he pulled me aside and let me know that I am only as good as my last game. He reminded me that if scouts were watching, they would probably think I was rubbish.

These words have stayed with me throughout my life. Despite not being what I would like to hear, they have given me a better view of how people might see me.

It is easier to apply this statement to people we may not know. After all, they have no record of your work in the past. So, all they have to judge you on is the last bit of work you completed.

However, those that know us are less likely to see it like this. Due to this, we tend to get comfortable and what was a terrible piece of work only becomes a bad day at the office.

I have found that I often produce my best work in two situations. The first is when I know it will be my last. Throughout my whole schooling career, I have always performed the best in my final exam. Also, my last basketball game at my school was one of the best I ever played.

The second is if it is in front of people who will never see me again. Whether we like it or not, we do care about what others think of us. As a result, we tend to want to leave a lasting impression.

Even recently, my mindset has changed about every article I put out. I now try to write every one like it is the last one someone will see and the last I will write.

The key to planning great lessons is this mindset. But it can be hard when you know that you will see your students again. So, here is a guide for teachers to start producing great lessons with this mindset.

Step 1: Plan the Lesson Like It Is Your Last

When creating the lesson plan, you need to plan it as though it is the last lesson you will teach. The questions you need to ask yourself are:

  • Would I be proud of this lesson if I could rewatch it every day?
  • What would I like to leave with my students before I go?
  • What would I want my students to say about me after the lesson?

These three questions allow you to focus on the lasting impact a one hour lesson can have. It no longer becomes another lesson you have to get through but is a platform to leave your best work.

Many people struggle to get into this mindset because they know they have the next day. However, even though tomorrow is likely to happen, we only have today to make a difference.

When you plan lessons with those three questions in mind, you start thinking of the long term fulfilment from your job. You will find that your lesson plan will become more creative with some elements of the standard lesson being taken out.

Once you have planned with those three questions in mind, it is time to find the energy to present this great lesson.

Step 2: Focus Your Energy Before the Lesson

I am still unsure why so many teachers take the full one hour. I understand that sometimes there will be lessons with a lot of content, so you have no choice. But you can perform much better in each class if you take five minutes to think about it.

One of my old teachers used to make us sit in silence for five minutes at the end of every lesson. Sometimes she would play a video for us to watch that was inspiring or calming.

Funny enough, she never appeared to be out of energy either. The one time I caught her tired, I offered her a pack of crisp from my lunch box because I was worried. And she took it because she had no time to eat that day.

If you were about to present your last ever lesson, you would not run into it without thinking. You would take time to reminisce on the joy you have been able to experience whilst teaching.

I have found that this also helps me. Thinking about all the positive experiences I have had whilst writing an article gives me the energy to keep going. Teachers need energy too, and taking time just before the next lesson to charge up is a great way to do it.

Step 3: Self-Reflect on the Lesson

Once your lesson is complete, remember you are only as good as your last lesson. Now I am not saying you need to be hard on yourself if things do not go well.

By self-reflecting, you can pick out the areas you would have liked to change and go again. To self-reflect on the lesson, I would do two things:

  1. Ask a handful of students if they enjoyed the lesson
  2. Ask yourself if you did the best you could

By receiving short insightful feedback from the students at the end, you give yourself a chance to see how you did. The feedback directs you on the right path, and it can sometimes even uplift you.

It is easy to be hard on yourself, and sometimes we overlook the good we did. However, the students may give you some feedback that will put a smile on your face.

Finally, you are honest with yourself when you ask if you could have done better. We all know when we have given it our all, and when we do that, we tend to not be upset by the result.

When we give our best effort, even if the result is not great, we are still somewhat pleased. And it is because we know we left everything on the line. The feeling of satisfaction can be overwhelming in moments where we know we did our best.

Closing Thoughts

Great qualities show themselves in the most challenging situations. If you knew you only had one more year to teach, I am sure you would make that the best year yet.

Many things would change in your teaching, and your lessons will be filled with way more energy.

So, the greatest lessons are found when you ask yourself the question:

If this was my last lesson, what would I do differently?

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Tavian jean-pierre

I am a Visionary and Writer who seeks to enrich society by challenging how we do business today to lead to a world of better leaders and opportunities tomorrow.


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