The Importance of Behind-the-Scenes Preparation

This semester has been a lot of fun and definitely a learning experience for me as a new administrator. A lot happens behind the scenes each and every day— much more than I would have ever guessed. Something as simple as having an assembly l in the gym rather than the auditorium takes at least 20 inutes to set up. I had no idea! Or what about busing students from one campus to another? It’s ridiculous! And don’t even ask me about the semester test schedule! Ugh.

When things go smoothly, no one really notices or even thinks about who had to do what to make it happen. When things don’t go smoothly— yikes! Don’t answer the phone or check email. It seems everyone wants to point that out.

That’s not much different from how an effective classroom works. Students have no idea how much time teachers have put into a lesson when it works. They just enjoy it, think class is cool, and hopefully remember the key ideas and concepts. However, if something doesn’t work or a lesson is ineffective, students can see the behind-the-scenes preparation didn’t happen.


  • For a great lesson— just 40-45 minutes of solid instruction where students are truly engaged— a lot has to happen behind the scenes and hours of preparation may be needed. When it gets busy, it’s easy to mail it in and save a teaching idea for next year when there’s more time to plan. It’s good to plan ahead like that, but wouldn’t it be more effective to put in the time to make a great learning opportunity for students now?
  • Strategically selecting student groups takes time. It’s much easier to tell students to “group up” and let them choose their own groups. It’s not necessarily bad to do this, but which is more effective?
  • Scripting notes and questions— thinking ahead about which students you’ll ask certain question or which student will read a certain passage— takes time. It’s much easier to wing it and come up with questions on the fly or call on volunteers who you already know will have the right answer, but again, which is more effective?
  • Developing a seating chart where certain students are put in specifically-selected seats takes time, especially when there are six or more sections of a class. It’s much easier to randomly assign students their seats or even allow them to select their own than it is to do the behind-the-scenes things to create an intentional seating chart, but which is more effective?
  • When students enter a classroom, it’s a great idea to have them work on bell work to get them engaged and focused, but creating bell work for students takes extra behind-the-scenes time and it’s easy to put it off. Allowing students to visit for the first few minutes of class takes no behind-the-scenes preparation and is much easier on everyone, but which is more effective in engaging students and getting them focused?
  • Creating classroom procedures for everything (from turning in papers all the way to how students need to ask to use the restroom… I mean, the “facilities”) takes behind-the-scenes time. Communicating those procedures to students eats up class time and might even feel elementary. Maintaining the procedures and expectations takes even more time. It’s simply easier to not establish procedures and wing it, but that’s not effective. Students get frustrated by inconsistencies and small fires constantly need to be put out. It’s definitely more effective to put in the time to establish, communicate, and maintain classroom procedures— it’s just not the easiest route.
  • When creating sub plans, it takes some serious (and often last-minute) effort to create lessons for your students and for the sub (like a video lesson). It’s much easier to leave a review worksheet for students to complete or a movie for them to watch. However, which is more effective?

I want every single student in every single classroom to be actively engaged every single day. That’s my goal. Every. Single. Day. But it’s not easy. A lot has to happen behind-the-scenes to create an engaging and effective classroom, and often teachers feel their hard-work is overlooked and goes unnoticed, but nothing could be further from the truth. Preparation— or lack thereof— is always evident.