I went to work on Thursday to find out one of my classes would be observed by our instructional specialist. Surprise! Don’t worry, I am not in trouble. This is a routine observation. Maybe it was not also a BIG surprise as I was notified last month through an email that my class would soon be observed. The word “soon”, however, was vague. Other than the 6 weeks window indicated in the email, the date was unspecified.
As many of you are probably aware, a classroom observation is a formal or informal observation of one’s teaching while it is taking place in a classroom or other learning environment. In my college, it is usually conducted once a year by either one of our administrators or our instructional specialist. While the thought of it could initially make one feel edgy, it is really far less daunting than, say, a root canal procedure. If there’s one thing I might find worrisome about a classroom observation, it’s really just the uncertainty of the scheduling. After all, nobody would like to be observed during his/her most uninteresting classroom activities (e.g. giving a quiz, drafting a paragraph). If one wants to showcase his/her greatest performance in order to win that “Oscar” (pay raise or promotion), definitely the classroom observation is the perfect time to put his/her best foot forward.
A classroom observation is very important. It is often used for a variety of purposes. The most common are: 1) to provide teachers with constructive feedback aimed at improving their classroom management and 2) an extension of formal job-performance evaluation. In my department, it is utilized for both purposes. Trying to maintain a high standard in our ELS program statewide, our administrators would like to ensure instructors’ high quality of instruction AT ALL TIMES. Thus, I suppose, it is the main reason why assigned observers conduct their class observation as a big surprise, if not just giving only a short notice.
Classroom Observation Checklist
Every school has its own comprehensive framework, agreed descriptors, and judgmental criteria when conducting a classroom observation. In our department, they are the following: 1) Demonstrates knowledge of subject matter; 2) Manages instruction effectively; 3) Stimulates interest in subject matter; 4) Encourages student participation; and, 5) Uses appropriate methods of instruction.
In all honesty, this approach is what I routinely attempt to achieve every day in my classroom. However, no matter how confident I feel in front of my students, still the idea of being observed by an administrator (who might give me a wanting evaluation which could eventually result in me being shown the door) puts me on pins and needles. I must admit, as part of my affirmation I constantly remind myself that other people’s perception about me is none of my business. Yet, on second thought, when it comes to my bread and butter, I allow this one exception to that axiom. Yes, I do care. I really, really do care!
Since I received the email about the class observation, you might expect I have become very cautious and particular about my lesson planning. I wanted to make sure that I was checking all the boxes in the criteria base.
Besides carefully preparing my teaching materials, I also reinforced my effort by reminding myself to dress for success, multiplying my chance to superbly pull this one off. Knowing how my brain works, I recognize the ripple effect that good looks may translate to in my performance. As Jason Statham beautifully puts it, and I quote, “Looking good and feeling good go hand in hand. I would humbly add doing good to make it a good trifecta. That being said, the past few weeks I incorporated a little bit of style in my outfits to go along with that bounce in my step, mischievous grin, and that twinkle in my eye.
Then came Thursday. I woke up at 3:00 A.M. with a stomach bug disrupting my deep sleep. For hours I was tossing and turning in my bed. I almost decided to call in sick, but I toughed it out. I went through my morning routine and headed off to work. At 9 A.M. I started my first class, then trudged off to my next class at 11 A.M. As always, moving around helps me get distracted and forget whatever discomfort I am going through. The pain was intermittent, but eventually it subsided. Both classes went very well so much so I wished I had been observed in the morning. I went home, had lunch, took a short nap, and then got ready for my evening classes.
As it is my practice, I passed by the ELS office to check my mailbox before going to my classroom. As I entered the faculty office, I noticed that our instructional specialist was still at her workstation. I got suspicious, then curious, then hyper. True enough, she was there to conduct an observation on my class – AT NIGHT!
Oh man, suddenly I felt my stomach churning; butterflies are free again. The stomach pain was back and was mounting a bigger attack, but there was no time to get sick this time. I said to myself “suck it up buttercup.”
I calmed myself down by starting conversations with my students who had started trickling in our classroom. I pretended to be all excited and happy to mask the growing revolution taking place in my tummy. Thankfully, my power ensemble gimmick helped me to hide my discomfort. Once I started my class, the churning eventually stopped, and before I knew it I was already oblivious to my observer in the back who was scrutinizing my performance. One hour swiftly passed and the ordeal was over. I was so thankful I made it through without embarrassing myself (I am referring to getting sick).
I have no idea how I rated in my class observation, but I am sure I survived in no small part due to my dress for success trick, which helped me exude confidence and conceal the tennis match going on in my stomach. Thank God!
So, until next time when the verdict is read. Fingers crossed!
“If you look good, you feel good, and if you feel good, then you do good.”– George St -Pierre