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Lesson Plans & Cancer

I know technically we ring in the New Year in January, but to every educator and to most moms, the New Year really begins in late August or early September with the arrival of another new school year.

There’s nothing quite like this time of year for both students and teachers alike; fresh faces, fresh supplies, clean slates and new beginnings for all.

As yet another school year is getting underway; I’m feeling a bit nostalgic and uncertain. I’m toying with the idea of doing a bit of classroom work, perhaps as a substitute teacher again, but at the same time, I’m wondering if I’m up to this challenge after all that has transpired.

I’ve always joked that the office secretaries and the substitute teachers are the ones who really keep any school a-float. Nothing seems to get by the front office personnel and without the ever-reliable second stringers, otherwise known as subs, every school would find itself in a tight spot nearly each and every day.

Lately as I’ve been contemplating substitute teaching again, I’ve been thinking about lesson plans and how in my mind even lesson plans relate to a cancer diagnosis.

Most teachers are required by their principals to have a lesson plan for each week. Lesson plans are merely goals a teacher intends to try to achieve. In actuality lesson plans are almost always revised, revamped, fine-tuned and often times completely disregarded.

You never know from day to day, or even from moment to moment, what will transpire in any given classroom. Predictability in a classroom full of lively elementary-age human beings doesn’t really exist.

Flexibility is key and lesson plans are a “plan of hope” at best.

All substitute teachers quickly learn that lesson plans left for us by the regular classroom teachers come in highly varying degrees of helpfulness. Some plans are neatly and precisely laid out; others, not so much and many times plans are impossible to locate or are even non-existent. This is why most subs I know arrive quite literally with their own bag of tricks.

So where does cancer fit in to all of this?

Well before a cancer diagnosis, you think you have a “lesson plan” for your life.

Of course, you realize you will make minor adjustments along the way, but you think you know where you are headed, or at least in what general direction.

One thing’s for sure, you never pencil in cancer.

Then comes that day you hear the words you have cancer and your life lesson plan goes right out the window.

Suddenly you have no plan at all.

You’re left standing to pick up the pieces and trying to figure out what to do next. You need a new emergency back-up plan and you need it quick.

You must now improvise like never before, figure stuff out as you go along and then improvise some more.

There is no lesson plan on how to do cancer.

It’s not completely unlike when a substitute teacher finds herself/himself standing before a classroom of 30 or so faces with no lesson plan and no supplies feeling unprepared, uncertain and yes, more than a bit terrified overwhelmed.

Though on entirely different levels of course, both scenarios can be stressful as heck.

Both can challenge your ability to think on your feet.

Both can be mentally and physically exhausting.

Sometimes you wonder if you can possibly make it through the day or even the next few minutes.

But then somehow you do.

Another day comes to an end and you realize you are more capable than you thought.

You rest, regroup and prepare the best you can to face another day perhaps full of more and even tougher challenges.

You begin to realize plan or no plan, you’re ready to face whatever comes your way next.

To survive, you have to be.

Did you have a “life lesson plan” before cancer? 

How has cancer changed how you make plans, or has it?






Susan Zager

Wednesday 19th of September 2012

The lesson plan went right out the window. Everything changed. Always thought things would go back to normal. Never happened. You said it perfectly!


Thursday 20th of September 2012

Susan, Thanks for taking time to comment. Normal is relative anyway I guess, right? Now it's more about finding equilibrium I'd say.

Facing Cancer Together

Wednesday 19th of September 2012

My lesson plan was thrown out the window 100% after the diagnosis of breast cancer. Everything changed, and we're still trying to figure out how to adapt. But one point of reassurance is that eventually that school bell WILL ring, and then it's off to the staff room for a cup of tea and some recovery. (i.e. things will be okay. I have to believe that.)



Thursday 20th of September 2012

Catherine, I agree, plans went out the window and everything changed to some degree or another. Life is all about adapting and hoping for the best. Thanks for stopping by.

Julie Goodale

Wednesday 19th of September 2012

Yup, pretty much everything can apply to cancer I think. This one is particularly apt. Not only does the lesson plan change, we end up completely switching majors sometimes.


Thursday 20th of September 2012

Julie, Yes, switching "majors" that's a pretty good way to put it! Thanks for commenting.

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