Friday, November 11, 2011

Easier Said than Done

This morning's musings:
A few weeks ago, I observed a 1st year teacher and colleague of mine as a part of an alternative licensure program through a local community college. I had high hopes about how I would work with my colleague to give pertinent feedback as well as some expectations about changes I thought he should make in his classroom. Then it came time to debrief the observation - for me to deliver my powerful feedback and teaching tips.

The first roadblock was that my colleague and I could barely schedule a time to meet. We had to reschedule a number of times, and in between my observation and our meeting he actually went away to Boston for a conference and came back. When we did eventually meet, it was crammed into the last few minutes before he had to sub for a third colleague's class. Students were in and out of the room, the bell was ringing, I was thinking about the things I still needed to get done in order to teach for the day.

The second roadblock was that I choked. I spent quite a bit of time observing, taking notes, and formulating these notes into an observation form as well as a digestible set of ideas that I thought would help my colleague improve his teaching. But when I sat down, I started flipping through papers and hastily explaining why I hadn't just awarded all "exceeds" scores on the rubric. I hastily ran through my recommendations, and the debrief session ended without my colleague ever talking about what he might actually do to improve his teaching practice.

And now it's over. And now nothing will probably ever come of the time I spent observing, writing, and talking with my colleague. Refining one's teaching practice is a slow, difficult, personal process. It's not that I expected major changes after 1 observation. But I didn't expect to feel like the observation cycle was completely futile either. Maybe it wasn't.

Despite my debacle, there are a few positives that might come out of this situation. I'll do better next time - by scheduling a debrief session in advance of the observation, by carving out at least 30 minutes of time, and by inviting my colleague to reflect on what I've said rather than just listen to me talk in circles. I'm also glad for the experience because I've written before about observations and teacher evaluation as if it would be so easy to do things differently or better than they're currently being done. It's important to remind my self that that simply isn't true. Things could change, but it will require more than a minimal effort from a know-it-all teacher (me) to make that happen - even just in my 1 small school. 

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