Observations

I’m in the midst of conducting a few teacher evaluations, so as the department chair, I’ve been sitting in on a bunch of math classes.  I find a week of time when I can visit one particular course, so I can get a sense of the flow of the class, how a given day feels, and look more longitudinally.  Last week, I also participated in Instructional Rounds, a new form of school-based professional development that we are trying out as an institution.  On that day, I visited a Religions class, an English class and an art class, for 20 minutes each.  On a somewhat related thread, I have been teaching a colleague’s class for about two weeks while they are out on short-term leave.  It’s sort of like observing a class because I’m trying to figure out who they are, and how I can help them.

Overall, these visits have been really enjoyable.  Visiting the art class was probably my favorite, but I did realize that even just spending 20 minutes in a class gives me plenty to observe and a lot to think about.  Here are a few of my takeaways after being in others’ classes:

  • It’s invigorating and refreshing to watch my colleagues teach, regardless of discipline.
  • I can easily empathize with students who might have an entire class day with teachers talking at them.  I also find myself thinking about the student who is less inclined to participate in class discussions.  That person could spend the whole day not speaking, and not engaging, depending on the activities planned in each class.  I need to make sure my class engages all of my students at least some of the time.
  • A one-on-one private conversation with a student is often the best first step to take to understand someone.  I found myself giving the advice on multiple occasions to talk directly with the student whose actions are frustrating to you; step away from the heat of the moment, and ask some questions about why they are acting the way that they do.  Then, be prepared to listen.  How does that kid who is dominating the class discussion want you to notify them that they need to take a break?  Empower the student to navigate whatever situation you are in, and work on a solution together.
  • Returning student work promptly is always a good idea, and will always be appreciated.
  • Teachers doing all or most of the talking does not result in a good class experience.
  • Teachers need to be paying attention all of the time as to what is going on in their classroom.  They won’t see everything but they will see a lot if they look.  This makes me of a think of recent post from @dcox21 on When the Activity Isn’t Enough.  He wrote about watching students actively doing a Marbleslides activity on Desmos, and observing what we can learn about how they approach the challenge of finding the correct equation.  We all need to keep watching, and keep learning.

I’m sure there are many more items to add to this list, but these are my highlights for now.  When can you find 20 minutes to visit someone else’s class?  If you can make this happen, post something you learned or were reminded about by conducting that visit.

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