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Observing Teachers

Today was an interesting day. I learned a lot about performing observations and now understand some of the dilemma administrators go through when observing teachers. My student teacher asked me to observe for certain behaviors today, so she can improve her practice. I have never done this before. As such, I decided to do what all of my observers have ever done and take running notes on anything that happened in class, specifically things that she said and did. It wasn’t until I was taking notes that I began to catch the subtle faults in the notetaking process that make it near impossible to truly retain accuracy. 

The first problem I noticed was that my brain immediately began to make assumptions, both good and bad, based on one or two classroom phenomenon. For example, I wrote that she was doing a great job at ignoring the smaller side conversations and keeping the class moving. Shortly after I took that note, she stopped ignoring them and began to focus on them. This is obviously my fault as I wasn’t just recording events from an outside perspective but was looking for areas of improvement and judging. 

The second problem I noticed was that her objective for my observational purpose was far too broad. She asked me to watch for classroom management. Well, first let’s define what that is. The problem with the definition of classroom management is not that it cannot be defined, but it also incorporates other aspects of one’s teaching that are often overlooked. For example, how you engage kids in questioning techniques is one part of classroom management. Yet, when someone talks about classroom management, they are frequently referencing behavior management and classroom discipline. However, true classroom management is all encompassing. It includes all elements of teaching and is indistinguishable from teaching in some ways. 

All of this made me realize why we hate observations so much. We don’t hate them because we totally hate people being in our rooms. We hate them because the measurement scales are in no way accurate to what reality is. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I can tell you it’s not any of those published rating scales we spend thousands of dollars for rights to every year. 

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