Unannounced Observations – 1

I know that we don’t get observed much at this time of year, but this information may come in handy at some point next year:

How to respond to those electric moments when observers walk into our classrooms unannounced and the class is not focused and needs to be brought into immediate focus without the observer even noticing the shift to “performance mode?”

I don’t think that these people mean to knock us off our rhythm, and I’m sure that there are teachers who handle such intrusions (that’s really what they are) with aplomb. I, however, am not one of them.

There have been times in my career when an unannounced observation by a supervisor would send me into a kind of internal panic and I would lose my focus. But when Dr. Krashen came into my classroom with Diana Noonan and an entourage from the district, to observe two classes in 2014, I had no such reaction.

Why the difference? Why was I experiencing a fear-based reaction when being observed by someone who likely doesn’t even understand how languages are acquired, but none when being observed by one of the pre-eminent scholars in the world on language acquisition?

I think it is because I knew and sensed that Dr. Krashen wasn’t there to find fault with me – he simply wanted to see some of his ideas in action in the field.

Hmmm. Does it matter if the observing presence is in the room to check off boxes and judge, or to just hang out in a spirit of shared interest about best practices? It does to me. Of course, the administrator checklist (originally by Susan Gross but I have rewritten it to align more with NTCI instruction) reduces the stress considerably, but that checklist is really for formal, scheduled observations.

I am happy to report that I no longer react in fear to formal observations by administrators. I look upon observations now as ways to educate these people, so that they don’t use 20th century ideas to evaluate 21st century teachers. That shift in thinking has made for much better observations.

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