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30 Days – “Observation Area”

Day 3: Discuss one “observation” area that you would like to improve on for your teacher evaluation.

I’m still a pretty new teacher.  This is the start of my fourth year.  So my biggest issue is that I get nervous when I’m observed.  I also get very ‘antsy’ based on previous experiences.  For my first two observations, the observer only stayed for about 10 minutes.  Great, you got to see me settle the class down and give a warm-up problem.  Don’t get me wrong, I think my warm-up problems are valuable to my students, but they don’t show an observer why I’m a good teacher.  I consider my teaching method theatrical, and I try to use lots of comedic timing.  Sometimes my methods may seem nonsensical, but it’s only because I’m leading the entire class to a great ‘Ah-ha!’ moment.

For example, in the first physics lab, the students were instructed to measure several different cylinders using string and meter sticks.  They were not allowed to calculate anything, so they had to actually measure circumference and diameter.  Then, after checking 4 or 5 cylinders, they were to make a graph of Circumference over Diameter and find the slope of the line.  From an observation standpoint, the actual measuring of the cylinders looks pretty boring, but once the students find the slope of the line and realize that they’ve discovered pi, everything suddenly makes sense.

One of my favorite things as a teacher is to anticipate these moments of clarity, and to appreciate them.  This has taught my students to trust me, even when they’re doing something as trivial as measuring cylinders in a Jr/Sr level class.  THIS is what I’d like to be able to show observers.  Instead, my follow up meetings have consisted of questions about the second half of the lesson.  “Why were the students doing X?”  …and as I relay the story, I can always tell that my description never matches up to what actually happened.

That being said, our new instructional coach has been here to observe me twice, and she’s stayed all hour.  This means that I automatically think she is awesome and respect anything she has to say, because she’s seen the big picture.

So what would I change?  I’d ask those evaluating me to skip the warm-up problems and stop by for the last 20 minutes instead.  That’s where the magic happens.

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