A Learning Observation

I have pledged to make myself spend two half days a week (at a minimum) doing nothing but visiting classrooms.  I want to connect with students, see the work that they are doing, watch my staff and highlight the exemplary practices I see, and do everthing I can to promote a positive learning environment.   I have found that by watching the students  I get a much quicker read on what learning is taking place.  I remember that as a teacher, I felt good when there was a lot of interaction amongst the students and interaction between them and myself as we went through the day’s lesson.  I was sure that I was keeping students engaged and that we were making good progress.  The problem that I did not realize was that I was only really interacting with a few students in each class and that many students were only partly engaged at best and at worst, completely unengaged.  I did not get an objective view of what was going on in my classroom until several of my colleagues and myself started a peer observation program.  We watched each other teach and gave each other feedback without the fear of the “sumative” evaluaton of an adminstator’s authority.  I learned from my peers that my students were more engaged when I did student centered activities, only lectured for short periods of time, and used a seating chart to help me determine questioning patterns.  I think I also learned more about being a better teacher by watching my colleagues teach and interact with their students.  I learned a lot about using Bloom’s Taxonomy and the Socratic Method of questioning by watching excellent teachers who taught in the rooms down the hall.  I know time is a premium for teachers, but if there is any way that you can find time to step into the room of a colleague, you may find that some of the best professional development is being demonstrated right around the corner.

budget cialis

Photo courtesy of the  Jordanhill School D&T Dept photostream on Flickr

4 comments for “A Learning Observation

  1. Innovations in Online Education, Inc.
    September 2, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    I applaud your effrots to be “on the front lines”. I think you do more than observe and collect information. I think you inspire students. I remember reading a book in the 80′s which I think was called “Excellence in Management” which championed nouveau management styles. One manager of a manufacturing plant got out of his mobile powered cart, walked around, and had hands on with his employees. It created a different mood on the plant floor. People were more inter-active, more ideas oriented. Your presence means alot. Thank you for sharing Fred De Sena IOE, Inc.

  2. September 2, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Hi Dave,
    I’m with you! I’ve committed to a minimum of 15 hours a week to be engaged in learning and community with teachers and students (two hours a day in classes, plus and hour of active engagement at lunch/recess daily).I’ve also planned six days throughout the year – one day per grade – to be with a grade for the entire day from arrival through dismissal doing whatever the teachers in that grade want me to do. I’m hoping to take very little of this time for “evaluatory” responsibilites (that’s additional). As an independent school principal I’m lucky that I can develop any evaluation model that makes sense for our faculty and I am working on a differentiated approach with teachers; trying to ensure all get the feedback for professional learning they need. I’ve announced this plan to my faculty to “commit myself” with a promise to them to be present. I do worry that it will become difficult, particularly in the unbelievably busy spring months when planning for next year is in full swing. I’ll do my very best. It would be so helpful for educational leaders to be able to support each other’s commitment to be present for faculty throughout the year. Let’s be in touch:)
    Shira Leibowitz

  3. September 9, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Have to agree with Fred here. Your visibility counts! I reckon some may feel uncomfortable of you popping into their rooms from time to time, but it’ll be great to get them used to that. For what better place to source insights for improvements in school and education is there than the classroom itself?

    I also suggest that you slip a little WWW letter for the classes you visited. WWW stands for What Went Well. I wrote about it here: http://luria-learning.blogspot.com/2011/09/what-went-well.html

    With this, they’ll be less wary of those visits. There’s nothing better than knowing your boss wants to catch you doing something amazing, instead of the usual evaluation/fault-finding they’ve gone through since practice teaching,

  4. Donnie Connell
    November 1, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Teachers observing one another’s classrooms and watching students during the visits is an excellent way to understand what works for students and what doesn’t. As a teacher, how many times have you planned and presented a lesson only to be disappointed that students “didn’t get it?” As a principal, how many times have you done a “drive-by” observation, focusing on completing some kind of checklist of what the teacher was doing, and left the room not really knowing if students were learning? If principals want to help teachers help students, figure out a way to let them plan lessons collaboratively, then observe in one another’s classrooms as the lessons are taught. During the observations, watch the students, not the teacher. Find out what caused learning and what didn’t. Remove the strategies that didn’t work and replicate the ones that did in future lessons. This is how real professional learning occurs, and it can make a difference in student achievement. To learn more, find out about “lesson study” and figure out how to get it going in your school.

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