I Like To Watch

Magnifying glass and reflection
Image by ◄bl► via Flickr

The last time I got to watch another teacher teach was when I was a student teacher six years ago.

Back then I really didn’t know enough to observe what was happening and understand what I was seeing.

Today I finally got the chance to watch an excellent teacher teach a social studies lesson.

This was very useful to me because I now have the background and experience to really look at what was going on — and what was not happening —in front of me.

I wish this had happened a couple of years ago.

It is happening now because my principal says my one teaching weakness is my classroom management. He is being kind.

Very kind.

Classroom management is something I completely understand in theory and I even know the dance steps, but I can’t seem to keep from tripping over my two left feet.

I know I have to set up good procedures from the beginning and stick to them, but I never seem to have the right ones.

This year has been especially difficult because I was out the first month of school with my knee injury and the kids had lots of opportunity to develop bad habits. I also was teaching general education classes for the first time.

The best thing about watching another teacher work is that I am able to compare what I saw to my own practice, and I am man enough to admit that compared to Mrs. A, I have absolutely dreadful class management skills.

Realizing that is the first step to improving.

Mrs. A was masterful in the way she not only managed a class with several difficult students but actually got those 8th graders to think independently in the process.

I came away with lots of management techniques and a new process for analyzing photographs, posters, and other documents.

I also came away with a strong desire to watch other teachers teach.

There is a current movement to greatly increase the amount of time teachers-in-training spend student teaching and I am all in favor of that.

But I also think that a few years after being certified all teachers should be required to observe one or more colleagues for a few days.

I know I’m ready to sacrifice some prep periods to do that.

Are you?

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12 Responses to I Like To Watch

  1. Deven,
    I love the idea of us regularly getting the opportunity to learn from our peers. I can’t remember the last time I got to observe a fellow teacher. I would gladly sacrifice some prep time for that or even make it part of a professional development plan to link what I have learned to my practice. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Watching others teach is something I regularly enjoy doing. I also take it a step further, and try to write a peer review of what I saw. This provides a written record of what I learned for me to refer back to, but also provides a different viewpoint for the person teaching. Why should an administrator be the only one to evaluate teaching? Peer review is one way that teachers can have a voice in the evaluation process.

  3. Ed Wiederer @famousmistered says:

    It really is a hard thing to learn as a student teacher. You’re trying to figure it out as you go, plus you’re somewhat constrained by trying to do it within the structure/rules/climate created by the directing teacher… I’m going to try spending the last month or so of my internship moving around to watch other teachers in other grades. Great idea!

  4. Shani says:

    We have a program called ‘Double-Up’ at my school where every so often, say once a semester, you pair up with another teacher and observe each other’s classes. Afterwards you just say one positive thing to each other and leave it at that. It is just to learn from each other, not as an evaluation process (yet).

  5. peeryn says:

    I so agree. It should be required, because it if is voluntary, we would never think we had the time. Just once a semester would make a HUGE positive impact on anyone.

  6. Celine says:

    I like the idea of observing teachers. As a first year teacher, I wanted to take some time to go and watch others teaching but my schedule really didn’t allow me much free time. As you said, when you are a student teacher you do not have enough experience to know what to look at. I would have enjoyed having someone with more experience to come and watch me teach as well to give me some feedback on my practice.
    Thanks!

  7. Daniel Giordano says:

    I am very satisfied to read what you have written! I am not a teacher, but I teach in my work, coach little league, and am currently trying to steer an elementary school newspaper to print, through the PTA at my sons school. I know that everything I’ve learned about being an effective teacher has come from a remembering. There is a laundry list of teachers, as well as high quality business managers, that managed to get through to me. If you aren’t seeing the best you cannot become the best, this is where teaching is a lot like Baseball. The skills are mental as well as physical in order to become better you have to not only practice at the craft, you must see how the best in your class is getting it done. I commend your efforts.
    I’ll also say as an aside, if they could develop a way to statistically analyze teachers individual effectiveness, the way they do Ballplayers. Then it would be easy to pay teachers likewise.(As well as coach them to be better.)
    I do think the best of you are overwhelmingly underpaid. It’s why I don’t teach, against my responsibilities I cannot do that to my family. I don’t want to do what I do, I’d rather be doing what you do.
    I totally support your spirit, and would find myself lucky to have you appear in front of my boy to teach.
    Be well. Good Luck!

  8. Mary Beth Hertz says:

    I am so jealous of your experience, Deven! As the only teacher of my subject in the school, it is nearly impossible for me to observe a colleague teach what I teach without filling out paperwork and taking a day off to go visit another school.

    I’m glad to see in the comments that others are getting to experience peer review. I think that it can be powerful to get feedback from your colleagues, not your ‘boss’ sometimes.

    You also make a great point about student teaching. It’s like watching a football game without knowing how to play and being expected to keep up. We are better observers once we know what we are looking for!

  9. I’m a little spoiled as a library media specialist this year. I get to coplan and coteach with teachers from different grades and content areas every week. I also have some freedom to schedule in time to watch others. It is a fun dynamic in co-teaching where I will watch and learn at times and at other times, I am able to help the teacher I am working with. I wish the potential here gets recognized professionally and it just becomes a par of what we do.

  10. [...] published in Deven’s blog, Education on the Plate. Reprinted with permission from Deven [...]

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