The joys of observation…

I’m being observed next week. I spent most of today gathering my data together, justifying groupings, making power points and writing a lesson plan. It should have been a total chore because as we know observations are kind of fake really, aren’t they? But I ENJOYED IT. 

I like the validation that comes from lesson observations. And I know I shouldn’t need to be patted on the head all the time but once in a while is nice. I work hard for my students, at home, in school, after school, fighting for them at meetings but a lesson observation is when you get to really show the direct effect you are having on them. I like that. 

I like the lesson I have planned. I know my kids will enjoy it, I will enjoy teaching it. Even if I don’t get the result I want from my observer I know that I will have tapped into some deep thinking skills, that may not be evidenced straight away, within an hour, but in the long term it will show. 

Sometimes I feel guilty because I don’t really do all singing/ dancing observation lessons anymore. I just do what I always do, it’s honest. I had a teaching student watch me the other day and she asked why I was doing a particular thing, I replied, “just to confuse them a bit.” Obviously I didn’t leave them confused for the whole lesson, just a little bit. I like to see them wrestling with a problem, it’s good for them. I set them up with the tools to resolve things – but I refuse to spoon feed. 

I also appreciate how difficult it is to be the observer, it’s a horrible job. I don’t really like it myself. Teachers observing other teachers can’t help but think ‘I would have done it like this’ which I know is unfair but we can’t help thinking it, even if we don’t say it. 

These days I observe a lot more than I am observed. I’m not altogether sure I should be doing it. Unless I’m the one teaching, I find my mind wanders and I have a critical eye for what I do pay attention to. In fact I think I overcompensate in my judgements because of this. I would like to be trained on how to observe a lesson, no one ever really is, are they? If you can teach, you can observe, apparently, but I’m not sure if that is true.

I once observed someone who clearly had a fantastic relationship with her students and their behaviour was impeccable, but it was dull. Really dull. None of the kids said anything, there was no buzz, no one was talking about the work, it was so teacher led. I wanted to give it a ‘requires improvement’ but because the person I was observing was always given ‘outstanding’ I felt that I couldn’t. It would have caused outrage. That has happened to me a lot. Especially in joint observations. In joint observations the more senior observer calls it and you don’t really get a say (which makes you wonder why you had to be there in the first place!). Judgements are made even before the lesson has begun.

Observations, for some, are emotional, which again makes it doubly hard for the observer to be fair. Remember you have to work with these people afterwards and even if they say they are alright about it they will be pissed off with you. Teacher relationships are fragile at the best of times. That’s why, in some ways, the external observation (the LA or Ofsted) is best. It’s totally impartial and they don’t care whose feelings are hurt. It would be a relief to line managers everywhere, it would allow them to be more like coaches than overseers. 

So I’m happy to be the observee this week, in fact it will be a pleasure because I know I won’t have to be the one making the judgment for a change. 

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