Saturday, October 29, 2016

Invite a peer visitor into your classroom!

I just read a blog, http://nesloneyflipped.blogspot.com/2016/10/learning-from-others-kidsdeserveit.html, that really made me think of how I grow as a professional in the education arena.  After reflecting these are some of my thoughts.

A fantastic way to grow as an educator is to observe and be observed by a peer.  I have elected for the past three years to invite anyone into my classroom to observe me as I teach a lesson.   People don't realize it, but its actually not that nerve-racking because when they come, they are not actually observing me, but my students, and that's what I want.

When a visitor enters my classroom, whether it be a fellow teacher, an administrator, a departmental team from the district, a university student, and even a parent, they all come expecting to watch me.  But that doesn't happen.  They watch the students.  They look at what the students are doing, how they are interacting, how they are behaving.  They get ideas to put in their own teaching repetoire rotation of strategies.  They look at the students either silent reading, working on a project in a group, teaching another student a math problem, writing in their journal, whatever the assignment may be and they envision how it would look in their classroom.  They reflect on their own teaching practices and determine if this is a strategy that could help them better teach Common Core Standards.   This is one reason why I don't get too nervous when peers visit because I know I am not in the spotlight, but rather my students. 

Besides watching what the students in the class are doing, observers look at my material.   They evaluate me a bit on whether I am truly using Common Core State Standards and then they interpret using their own knowledge of them, if I am teaching them correctly.  They look at my questioning skills to determine if I am really using Depth of Knowledge or DOK appropriate questions.  This is good for them because they reflect on their own CCSS knowledge and helps them grow as a teacher.  Just like our students, if we can get someone to recall background knowledge and introduce a new concept that correlates with this knowledge, we can get dendrites in their brain clicking to help cement this new found knowledge in their long term memory.  This will help in planning their lessons when they go back to their own classroom.

I actually am energized, rather than demoralized by this evaluation that is inevitable in an observation lesson.  Like I said previously, having someone observe your lesson helps you grow as an educator.  I know someone is coming in to watch me and I want them to get something out of it so I will take extra time to plan for it.  I will make sure my students are motivated and engaged so they will show the behavior I am looking for while I'm observed.  I will take extra time to know my subject and content so I don't say something incorrect and the focus is thrown off the students and back on me.  I will look over my questions and ensure I have a variety of DOK questions to address all learners in my classroom.

In short, I will really and truly plan for this lesson as if my life depended on it.  And guess who benefits...  The teachers who observe, obviously, and that's what I want because if I can touch them, then I touch all of their students and I can make a difference in the education system hopefully.  But, really, and maybe more importantly I have taught a really well planned and thought out lesson for MY students.  They are benefiting from this observer being in my classroom by leaps and bounds, and not only with this lesson.  By putting the extra effort and research into  a lesson, I develop a habit for myself that will turn into not just putting this effort into lessons in which I am observed, but all the time.  This planning, researching, and preparing becomes easier and quicker the more I do it.  Pretty soon, all lessons become model lessons, and why?  Not because I attended a conference, not because I read a book or watched a webinar, although those PD strategies definitely help, but because I opened up my doors to the possibility of someone watching me fail as I taught a lesson.

I encourage everyone to invite someone to watch a lesson this upcoming week!  Just do it!  Take turns!  Take that risk!   It will pay off with the people who matter most of all, your students.  I'd love to hear from anyone who tries it.  :)

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