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- Under the Guise of Inclusion - November 20, 2015
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- SUPERPOWER Schools - October 13, 2015
- When Life Happens While You Teach - September 22, 2015
- "I'm Her Favorite Student!" - August 31, 2015
- Good Writing vs. Great Writing: Leading the Way - April 27, 2015
"How can we ask ourselves to go observe other teachers in other buildings, when we don't even observe the teachers in our own building?" This question was recently thrown out by me at a PLC meeting where we were discussing teacher actions that we can take as part of our goal for our Professional Learning Community. When the idea was first posed for teachers observing teachers, I decided to take it for a spin as an experiment and report back my thoughts on the matter. What I found surprised me in many ways and made me feel stronger than ever that teachers observing teachers within one's own school building, is a powerful growth tool for the professional educator. So, again I ask, if we as teachers don't strike out to find what our fellow teachers are doing in our own building, how can we grow in our own classrooms as professional educators?
[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="yes" overflow="visible"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="no" center_content="no" min_height="none"]If we as teachers don't strike out to find what our fellow teachers are doing in our own building, how can we grow in our own classrooms as professional educators Click To Tweet
Some felt strongly that teachers observing teachers left the door open for bullying, and so it was foundational that we establish the purpose in observation. While some felt that it should be used for critical, professional evaluation of peers, others felt strongly that the purpose was to only gain insight as to what and how others were teaching and that it not be used for an evaluation of a peer. There are conflicting purposes on various websites on the subject as well. I felt that while it could be used as an evaluation tool, the main purpose can and should be to grow ourselves by observing other teachers rather than to critically judge and evaluate.
Many in our group felt that it might work best if we work as a team and have two teachers observe at the same time. I felt that although it was a good idea, logistically it would be much too difficult to coordinate a chunk of time when two teachers could make it work. Also, I feel that two teachers walking in to observe is much more nerve-wracking for the teaching educator. It will most likely be much less threatening when one teacher observes on their own.
When to Observe:
You and your school will need to decide when an observation can best take place. We are on ninety-minute block scheduling, and it works well for me to observe in someone else's class on a day during my planning period. Since I recommend observing for about 45 minutes, this still leaves me with some time to get my own work done. Sometimes a teacher will have a planning period the same time frame that I have, in which I can choose the opposite planning day when perhaps we have different planning periods. One may also approach the principal and ask permission to use a substitute. As a professional, you will know when and how it can best work for you. It may be difficult at first to think about giving up all or part of your planning period for an observation, but in the long run, it'll be worth it.
Schedule the Observation:
What I have found works best is to contact the teacher you wish to observe and ask them which day of a particular week would work within your planning period schedule. Originally I tried just "popping" in on them and that did not work so well. First of all, while most didn't mind at all that I just popped in on them, a couple of times I got stuck with a "Oh, we'll be leaving for lunch in ten minutes," or "We're taking a test right now, not much going on." Making arrangements for the observation ahead of time is really the best way to do it. That way, all are prepared and great lessons are going on.
How to Observe:
What I also discovered was that there are very important ways in which you can and should observe in another person's class. First, it is critical that you not become a part of the lesson or the class discussion unless the teacher happens to pull you into it. If you change the dynamics of the class by your presence, then you're not getting a true idea of how the classroom works. It's best if you sit in the back, or out-of-the-way somewhere. Enter the room quietly and exit the room in the same manner. If you follow the provided observations sheet that I have attached to this article, you may write on it or take notes. Me personally, I like to obtain any worksheets that are handed out, and attempt to work on them as if I were a student to get a feel for how the student is processing information in this classroom. You will be tempted to raise your hand, answer questions or add to the conversation...after all, we're teachers, that's what we do...but resist the urge so you can get an honest feel for the classroom.
What You Will Discover:
What you will discover after you've observed a handful of teachers is amazing! You will gain much more than you ever thought you would. You may find new tools for classroom management. You may see other students that behave the same or differently in other classes. You will meet new students, discover new ideas and gain insight towards cross-curricular education.You may gain a new appreciation for your peer teachers, and most importantly, you will learn what others are learning in your very own building! It is the true meaning of professional development right under your very own nose.
Just as if someone invited you over for dinner, always follow-up with a friendly e-mail thanking the teacher for allowing you to observe their classroom. Tell them anything positive that you felt you saw, and thank them for being a colleague and professional in your building. Most likely, the teacher (no matter how impressed with their teaching you were) will feel like you probably thought they were an awful teacher and that their lesson didn't go as well as they would've liked for it to go; we've all been there. That's why it's important that you sincerely thank them for allowing you to observe. If it's a policy in your school, follow-up with a meeting to discuss the observation at a later date. Remember, only offer criticism if the teacher you observe asks for it and then make sure it is constructive, done politely and only if you honestly find something to be critical about. Not all teachers have the same techniques, and that's ok, it's what makes us all unique.
Peer observation can be whatever your school decides it can be. For me, I feel it's more for the observer than the observed. As many might fear the obligatory bullying, it's critical that a trust be built immediately to reassure the educators that bullying and criticism for bullying sake will not be tolerated, nor implicated. Remember, teacher's observing teachers is for professional growth of the observer, first and foremost. If you take on this challenge of teachers observing teachers, you will see a growth in professional development like never before. Happy observing!