26 June 2011

On Classroom Observations

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Part of my duties as Project Director for my district's Teaching American History grant include completing classroom observations of participating teachers. Like many teachers I have spent little time over the years in other teachers' classrooms actively observing their teaching and student learning.

The observations were a revelation to me. I LOVED them. I liked seeing how teachers incorporated Word Walls in their secondary classrooms, how they managed their classrooms, how they gave their students the opportunity, despite limited resources, to integrate technology into learning. I liked seeing which assignments teachers chose to feature on their walls, the lists of honor students and students of the month, the seating arrangements to maximize space (some classrooms now have 38 students).

The variety of teaching strategies engaged students and kept things interesting in the classroom. One of the classrooms had a greeter who took me to a seat and ever-so-quietly explained what students were doing that day and why.

This has led me to the conclusion that we (teachers) are missing out. We are not learning from each other like we should be. I don't work in a district, or even know of one nearby, where teachers are actively involved in the day-to-day process of teaching outside of their own classrooms.

Imagine what would happen in my room if I went to a teacher who is really good with video in her classroom and asked to observe one of the lessons so that I could better use video in mine? Or the guy across campus came to me to ask about beginning of class routines? What if one of the department teachers was having trouble with a group of students, but couldn't figure out what was going on and wanted another set of eyes on the problem? Wouldn't ALL of us improve? Wouldn't our students do better?

Fortunately, some of my colleagues agree with me so next year, we're going to make a concerted effort to get into each other's classrooms during the course of the year. We will, of course, have specific objectives each time we visit. Though the cohort is relatively small in relation to the rest of the teachers in the district, we are going to start making a difference one classroom at a time.