Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Dreaded Teacher Observation

"Question: How are observations working at your school? In what ways are they helpful or not helpful?"

At our school, each teacher was formally evaluated every three years. Part of this formal evaluation was at least two unscheduled observations.  

I hated these with a passion! When an administrator walked in my room for an observation, I would stammer and shake. I felt like I was going to pass out!!

I knew that I was a good teacher and usually passed these with flying colors but I couldn’t help but get nervous!

I would warn my students about the observations and even asked them to help me get through it. They were usually surprised I felt this way and were quick to come to my aid. Of course it helps that I had a great rapport with my students.

Since I knew what was expected for the evaluation because we had forms that were used to evaluate us, I modeled all of my lessons so that I covered each item on the list. If I made a habit of doing what was expected for every lesson, it would become natural and not forced. Once my students saw what I had to do, they would make sure I didn’t leave any parts out of the process. I even wrote a lot of the process on the board so that they helped me cover everything. Eventually, I didn’t have to write the process out and the students let me know if I forgot something.

My problem with these type of evaluations is that I feel like I’m putting on a performance rather than real teaching. I’m so nervous and anxious that you wouldn’t think that I knew what I was doing.

Luckily I had a few administrators at my last school who knew I was a good teacher and was able to evaluate me without it seeming like a formal observation. I invited administrators to eat lunch in my room even if I was teaching because my room used to be an old home economics room. My room was equipped with 3 kitchens and 1 full refrigerator. Since my special ed class was so small, the administrators could eat in one kitchen and never disturb my class. It was during these times that they were able to see me teach and I was so used to them being there that I wasn’t nervous around them.

I wonder how many teachers get “dinged” for not doing things during these observations because they were so nervous they missed things. I don’t think it is a fair way to determine if a teacher is a good teacher or not.

I know many people are not in favor of cameras in the classroom but I think it would be a wonderful idea. I would not teach in a different style if an administrator was in the room or not but I would be more comfortable no knowing if I was being watched. I also think many students would be better behaved if they didn’t know if they were being watched.

So, I guess I don’t think observations are very helpful but I’m not sure there is a better way to evaluate a teacher. There aren’t enough administrators to go around and observe teachers as much as they should. Once a semester seems like a waste of time to me other than for the district to have some kind of documentation if they need to fire you.

How do you feel about teacher observations? Do you think they are helpful or not and why? Please share.

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