Part of what makes teaching wonderful is the fact that every day is different. If you are a secondary teacher, every period is different. Things that work well with morning classes may fail with the last period of the day. An activity that is a hit one year may flop completely the next. And sometimes no matter how well you prepare, students will misbehave. As a teacher, the most important trait you can ever have is flexibility.
I have seen the most well-intentioned teachers fail because they refused to be flexible. In their lesson plans, in their reactions to things not going the way they planned, to student responses, the list goes on.
There is no way for me to possibly prepare you for all of the things that can go wrong in your classroom, but here some common scenarios and how I have dealt with them successfully.
Your lesson takes less time that you thought it would. It is every teacher’s worst nightmare. Your lesson and activities are done for the day but there is still 30 minutes left in the period. It’s happened to everyone. Here is where thinking on your feet becomes super important. Firstly, as students work, you should be walking around the room monitoring them. You should recognize that your students are going to finish before class is over before they are actually done. This will hopefully give you some time to pull something out of your ass prepare. First, look at what is assigned for homework. Can they start it in class? If not, try to think of what you have planned for the next class. Is there something that can be moved up to today? Is there an ongoing project you can give them to work on?
If all else fails and you can literally think of nothing relevant to do, I have found that competitive brain teasers are the way to go. For Language Arts, I usually go with the one where you give the kids 6-8 letters and they have to come up with as many words from those letters as they can make (the words must be at least 3 letters in length). The student with the