I suffer from periodic bouts of “lack of confidence”. I know most of it is from a recognition that I still have much to learn when it comes to teaching (and life).
It is for that reason that I have latched onto reflective practice with such intensity and joy. Reflective practice gives me knowledge, ideas, and confidence to get back into the classroom and try something new.
While reflective practice has been a joy, I have not had much else to help me along my professional development way.
Feedback was doing the rounds on the blogosphere in the last month or two. I have tried feedback, but only half-heartedly. It is one of those things that seems to get lost in the fray. One of those “I’ll do it next time” things that never gets done. I fully recognize and appreciate the usefulness of genuine feedback. At times, however, that genuineness (which is critical to helpful, useful feedback) is so difficult to draw out of students it sucks my enthusiasm out of the whole process.
The institution I am currently working for takes feedback very seriously. In fact, they are determining how to cut 40% of the work force based solely on student evaluations of professors. Now, while I am not averse to a student’s opinion, I believe there is more that defines a teacher than a piece of paper that allows the English staff with the highest scores to walk through the halls with beaming smiles ready to reenact Sally Field’s 1985 Oscar speech.
Observation is currently being discussed by a few fantastic educators over at iTDI.pro (a series of blogs of which are highly recommended reading for any who are interested).
Observation is one aspect in which I believe I have been let down by the institutions with which I have worked. I too, have failed myself in being so lackadaisical in seeking out observing opportunities.
I have been let down by my employers because I have simply not been observed. Of my three years teaching, I have been observed a grand total of one time. That was one month into my first year teaching at a middle school. It was a horrific lesson. The lowest mark I received was a 93 (whatever that means).
In thinking about myself, I have realized that observing other teachers would be quite useful. However, as with feedback, it is one of those things that a busy teacher never quite seems to have the time for. Something I’ll get to next week.
Perhaps it’s always pushed off because observation scares me. Not for the reasons observation scares most. It scares me because I feel like I don’t know what to look for. I can go, and say “ooo, I like that. Or hmmm, that doesn’t seem to be working” but I don’t have the knowledge to accurately assess what is going on. I feel like I can’t adequately judge what can be useful for my own class and what wouldn’t be.
Even as I write this it feels like a cop out, and that frustrates me.
It’s also a major reason I am excited to be starting my graduate degree next year. A program focused on the practical rather than the theoretical with lots of opportunities to learn, observe, and reflect.
It’s a bit early for New’s Years resolutions, but there’s also no time like the present!
1) I am going to begin requesting feedback from day 1 of my next round of courses, and I am going to consistently request that feedback, on a daily basis, throughout the course.
2) I am going to observe and reflect on another teachers class once a month.
Reflection, feedback and observation. So much learning to do, and never stop doing.