Tips for Surviving a Teacher Observation

observe

 

Nobody loves being “observed” whilst they are going about their job. Here are some helpful tips courtesy of theguardian.com:

 

As you stand in front of your appraising tutor at your first PGCE observation, you’ll no doubt be feeling anxious. But remember; they’ll have seen hundreds of these lessons and witnessed every type of disaster – which means they’ll rarely be surprised or shocked.

Unlike Ofsted, which makes summative judgements, your tutor is looking for good work to build on.

Graham Birrell, senior education lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University, and co-author of Succeeding on your Primary PGCE, says the assessments made by your tutors, mentors and class teachers are formative. “The most important thing to go in with is a positive mindset.”

Joanna Sarri, a newly-qualified teacher, agrees: “Tutors are there to help – not criticise. Everything, including making a mistake, is just a learning point.”

The next thing to consider is the content of the lesson. “Avoid an all-singing, all-dancing lesson – this isn’t a reflection of where you really are as a teacher,” advises Sarri. The technology is bound to fail on the day anyway.

Birrell’s advice is to “think of a small thing to do, and then make it a bit smaller”. Don’t avoid risk altogether – just confine that ambition to choosing an edgy or original lesson topic.

Some basic rules also apply. Don’t start an entirely new subject, and have resources and spare copies of your lesson plan ready – which you should also share with your support staff.

Birrell advises against setting lesson objectives that are too vast; students won’t be able to understand the causes of the second world war in 45 minutes.

A common mistake made by new teachers, according to Birrell, is to plan a lesson aimed at keeping the kids busy. They might all be engaged, but if you can’t identify the learning taking place, the tutor will notice.

Rhiannon Rees, also a newly-qualified teacher, recalls a maths lesson in which physical activities and a hot classroom threw her plans into disarray.

“Although I’d sought advice from colleagues and double checked everything, my timing was hopeless and there wasn’t an easy way to pull things back,” she says. “The children were having a great time – if only we’d had another hour.”

Of course, the occasional sweaty disaster will occur. “Be prepared to abandon your plan if necessary,” advises Sarri. “You’ll impress more by being flexible and spontaneous than by sticking to it.”

Then you’ll be able to show that you know what went wrong – demonstrating that you’re on the road to becoming a self-reflective professional.

We can’t pretend that receiving feedback is always fun. Sometimes class teachers lack the ability to make supportive and productive comments to fellow adults. “They can speak to trainees in a way they’d never dare to talk to children,” says Sarri.

Birrell suggests one reason for this potential source of conflict with class teachers. As part of a target-driven system, they’re often anxious about handing over their responsibilities to a trainee, fearful that children will fall behind academically in the hands of a novice.

Be honest and non-defensive when you hear something tough from an observer. “There’s probably a reason, and in your next observation, you get a chance to prove you can change,” says Birrell.

Rees recommends a gracious smile and taking on board the advice you get.

Observations also remind you of what you’re doing well, says Sarri. Training provides an opportunity to explore your personal teaching style – before you’re subsumed into a school with its own version of “what works”.

Remember that, ultimately, it’s the children who count. You may think you’ve aced an observation or crashed out in the first five minutes. But going forward you’ll be learning from the children – the sharpest tools in the box.

 

Click on the link to read The Call to Have Students Rate Their Teachers is Better than it Sounds

Click on the link to read First Work Out What a Quality Teacher is, Then Evaluate

Click on the link to read 7 Tips for Building a Better School Day

Click on the link to read Tips for Catering for the Visual Learner

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