Interesting Discussion About Observations

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by ms. yi, Apr 22, 2010.

  1. ms. yi

    ms. yi Comrade

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    Apr 22, 2010

    So my principal is currently doing observations on all the teachers at my school. An interesting discussion arose in the faculty lounge. One teacher stated that she used to do fancy, over-the-top lessons for these summatives but now does lessons that are more "odinary" and reflect her everyday teaching. I had a different opinion. I stated that if the principal is going to observe me this one time then I would showcase what I do well which is technology. The lesson that I have prepared took 3 days to complete. The thing is I have done similar lessons in the past but since they are so time-consuming to create I have only done them a few times this year. So the lesson I have created is like something that I have done in the past but not just on a regular basis.

    So what do you think? Should you try to wow your principal or just do what you normally do?
     
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  3. halpey1

    halpey1 Groupie

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    Apr 22, 2010

    I say do what you normally do. I like to get feedback and suggestions I can actually USE. If you go all out - it's not helpful. Just my opinion though. :)
     
  4. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I agree with halpey1. When I'm observed, my principal gets me, doing what I do every day.
     
  5. teacherpippi

    teacherpippi Habitué

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    I, too, do my normal every day stuff. I want my principal to see what happens even if he is not there. In fact, I have an observation tomorrow- sometime tomorrow. The P isn't sure when he's stopping by. That's fine with me!
     
  6. mrs100

    mrs100 Comrade

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    I hate to make this like a broken record, but I always follow my normal routine. If they observe math, they see the same steps we go through every day. Same for every other area. Like halpey said, I like to get suggestions for improvement that I can implement.
     
  7. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Two quick stories: Several years ago, one of my colleagues planned an amazing lesson for her observation--she pulled out all the stops and spent hours planning. Five minutes into her observation lesson, her principal was called out of the classroom on an emergency--not to return until after the "show" was over. He rescheduled his visit for the next day and she didn't have time to plan another "event", so she threw up her hands in despair and just did what she always did. Her evaluation was glowing!

    During an evaluation a few years ago, my principal had to reschedule her observation, and ended up coming in during a time when we were doing an introduction to a unit on newspapers. The students were doing a scavenger hunt through the newspaper and the room was covered with sections of the paper and kids completed the hunt. It was messy, noisy and a little chaotic, but that's what it was meant to be (okay, I thought that they would be able to refold the newspapers better than they did). She congratulated me for being brave enough to do that lesson with her in the room; I told her that I was just following my plans and that's what we were due to do.
     
  8. MsDeb

    MsDeb Comrade

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    Just last week...............
    I went all out to plan a lesson. My P showed up ONE DAY early. I just about died when he came in and sat down! He made a mistake but I was doing what I normally do. He loved it. He came the next day to see the whizz-bang lesson too. He loved that too.:)
     
  9. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    I'm still a fairly new teacher, but my principal gets typical. He's not in the classroom every day by any means, yet he walks through all the rooms enough to see through a show.
     
  10. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    Oh, you have observations and get feedback? That must be nice.

    I agree with doing what you always do. It can throw the kids off too when you are using a new or barely-used technique.
     
  11. Missy99

    Missy99 Connoisseur

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    Apr 22, 2010

    You don't have PDAS observations in your district?
     
  12. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Apr 22, 2010

    Our coordinator observes us, and usually they are pop ins so we never really know.Sometimes she will say, "I'll be popping in this month," but other times she doesn't even say that. In any case, I never have anything special planned, just what I normally do.
     
  13. ms. yi

    ms. yi Comrade

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    Apr 23, 2010

    I do want to clarify that the lesson I will be doing is a powerpoint that I had created. It won't be new to the children since I have done a few in the past. So it's not completely out of the realm of what I do. It's just not something I do on a daily basis. My P comes in at random times anyway so he gets to see me in action in my regular routine. I just thought it would be nice to showcase my talents. I would say I do lessons like these about once a week, whether it's a powerpoint, a game or involves interesting manipulatives like Skittles or gummy bears.

    Everyone has lessons that could be considered fun or a little dry (ahem - basal). If given a choice I would show him one of my fun lessons.

    There are also a lot of lessons that I follow in our curriculum. It seems like our reading and math are pretty much mapped out for us. I make sure to do those lessons but also supplement with my own. Again, if given a choice, I'd rather show my P my own lesson than one from a teacher's edition.

    I guess, for some odd reason, I view observations like an audition. Just typing that felt weird. I know it shouldn't be treated like that. Hmm...

    Thanks for all the input guys.
     
  14. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Apr 23, 2010

    In the end, you need to do what you are comfortable with and whatever feels right.
     
  15. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Apr 23, 2010

    I think there's a difference between polishing up a normal lesson and going all out. Ms. Yi, it sounds like what you're talking about is polishing up. It's normal to feel a little nervous for a formal observation and want to show your P your best.

    What people here are objecting to is the idea that people create a whole new lesson which includes a dog and pony show that they'd NEVER do otherwise. That's just fake, and doesn't do anybody any good.

    Personally, the only thing I ever did as far as planning lessons that I knew were going to be observed was to make sure that those observations didn't fall on test day. My last year teaching, my "classroom" was the cafeteria, which was connected to the teacher's lounge and copy room, so I'd be hard pressed to think of a single class when somebody didn't come in, stop a little while to watch, then go about their business. We (the students and I) got so used to being observed that nobody even noticed formal evaluations.
     
  16. Miss W

    Miss W Phenom

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    Apr 23, 2010

    Our principal is in our room observing very often. We can expect her at least once a month for informals. Formal observations are every 3 years if you are an experienced teacher (4 years or more). Teachers who are novices have more formal observations.

    We also have tons of other people walking in from all over to observe us. We're a training school so principals, principal hopefuls, superintendents, and what not are always in the building. We also observe each other (once a month) and have local college students in our building every day. Most of the time we don't know when someone will show up to observe, or how long they will be there. It could be anywhere from 3 minutes to 30 minutes depending on what they are there for. Data collections are easy to spot since the admins walk in with a Palm Pilot. Those will only last for a few minutes.

    Saying all that, I just teach how I always teach. As long as my objectives and frameworks are on the board I'm good to go. I still get nervous when someone comes to observe. Especially when it's a group! A few weeks ago 14 people walked in to observe me teaching literacy.
     
  17. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Apr 23, 2010

    I teach with my door open. Anyone, including the principal and assistant principal, is welcome to see what I'm doing on a daily basis. (In fact, one time the AP happened by as I was teaching a topic he enjoyed. He stood by the back door and caught most of the lesson. He actually wrote it up as an observation.)

    My kids deserve a great lesson every day. Anyone observing me is going to see what the kids see every day. The only difference will be that I won't schedule a quiz, since it doesn't show me teaching.
     
  18. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Apr 23, 2010

    Holy macrole!
     
  19. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    Apr 23, 2010

    My principal does a couple of informal (3-5 minute long) observations each month.

    We are formally evaluated every other year (twice during the year that we're evaulated). This was my formal evaluation year.

    My principal knows what kind of teacher I am whether or not she's formally or informally observing me.

    If I was working under a principal who didn't know me, I might feel the need to do something a little special.
     
  20. Yank7

    Yank7 Habitué

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    Apr 23, 2010

    Any principal worth their position,or Assistant principal for that matter, should known what goes on in each classroom during the day, five days a week,without judging a teacher based on one observation.You should feel free to do what you always do as long as your lesson is well organized and shows learning is taking place. This should be the aim of all the lessons we teach,although we all know the best laid plans don't always work out.
     
  21. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I'm at the point where I'm observed once a year.

    Last year's lesson was at a very rough time. Not only did I not plan a "special" lesson, but I totally forgot I was being observed. And I was pretty distracted; I spent the next period on the phone with the doctor. My department chair got probably my most distracted lesson of the year.

    But it wasn't a problem for 2 reasons: one, I know my stuff, and can wing a lesson if I have to. But even moreso, two: even if it had gone horribly, the administration KNOWS that I'm doing my job on a daily basis. My department chair would most likely have simply scheduled another observation.
     
  22. ms. yi

    ms. yi Comrade

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    Apr 23, 2010

    Well I had my observation today and it couldn't have gone better. My P said that it was highly engaging, very effective, used a lot of higher order thinking skills and was differentiated. He even said that the powerpoint was one of the best he's ever seen.

    Thanks for sharing your points of view with me. I strive to make every lesson "great" but I don't think I'm there yet. My students always seem to love science because of all the hands-on investigations that we have. And math comes in at a close second. I hope one day to get my students to buy into all the subjects in the same way.
     
  23. Emily Bronte

    Emily Bronte Groupie

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    I would rather be observed doing normal every day lessons. I am fine with having the P and AP walk in anytime they want, or really anyone else for that matter. I know that in my first year, I planned more "top notch" lessons because I wanted to make a good impression.
     
  24. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Glad to hear it went so well, ms. yi!
     
  25. DrivingPigeon

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    I do a "normal" lesson, but I have to admit that I usually put a little more into planning it when I know I'm going to be observed. I just go over it a few times and triple check that all my ducks are in a row.
     
  26. oldfashioned

    oldfashioned Comrade

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    Apr 23, 2010

    At our school, we get both kinds of observations. We get pop-ins once a month, and formal scheduled observations (we must submit lesson plans) once a quarter. We are a school in restructuring, so that might explain the frequent observations.

    In our case, the admins observe teachers under both conditions: unannounced and scheduled. I like what alicecc said about students deserving great lessons every day.
     
  27. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    I had a conversation with my principal the other day about observations... I'm due to get observed, though I haven't been yet... I just wanted to remind him. I really like him, but he's going through a lot, and has a tendency to be forgetful.

    He told me he'd tell me when he was coming... I told him I'd rather not... just come in.

    Personally, if I know someone is coming in to observe me, I get anxious, whereas, if someone drops in, I feel much more comfortable. Why? I'm not sure, but I also know that while I have rough days, in general I'm a pretty decent teacher, and if there are problems with my day to day teaching, I'd like to know... putting on a specially super-well thought out lesson that I've spent more time on than I normally would doesn't give me the proper feedback. Is my goal to teach the best that I can, or to trick my boss into thinking that I'm a good teacher?
     
  28. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    Ummm...school's going to be out in a few weeks and you still haven't been observed???
     
  29. msmullenjr

    msmullenjr Devotee

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    Congrats on a successful observation. I realize this is after the fact, but I'll throw in my :2cents:.

    I do whatever is on my schedule. Number one, I try to make all of my lessons great so anytime they come in should be something worth seeing. Number two, it is frowned upon in our district if you deviate from your normal routine. They want to see us how we regularly are.
     
  30. msmullenjr

    msmullenjr Devotee

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    A friend of mine who was new didn't get observed at all her first two years!!!! P apparently forgot about her.

    Side note, my P observed me two months ago and I haven't heard one word about it.
     
  31. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    I guess I'm just used to working for an ultra-organized principal! When I have had a formal observation, we "debrief" the same day...ALWAYS!!!
     
  32. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    We have two months left still YoungTeacherGuy... and I started here in January.
     
  33. msmullenjr

    msmullenjr Devotee

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    My former P, yes. My current P, ya right.
     
  34. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    That must be hard going from someone organized to someone disorganized!
     
  35. Ms. I

    Ms. I Maven

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    I say do a little of both doing something special AND what you normally do.
     
  36. msmullenjr

    msmullenjr Devotee

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    I cannot even put into words the transition. Organization was only one huge difference. Story for another thread.
     
  37. kimrandy1

    kimrandy1 Enthusiast

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    The last time I was observed, those kids are now 7th graders. They were in PreK. And, yes, I'm in a distict where I'm supposed to be observed every 2 years. I actually spent a great deal of time asking to be observed last year, and the P always said, "oh, I'll get to you. I'm just not worried about you, that's all. I know what you do." ARGH.

    I do not change my lessons at all when the P comes in, but I do make sure all the t's are crossed and the i's are dotted. My room is a little tidier, I go over things one extra time in my head, etc. But I don't do a dog and pony show - I teach whatever I was going to teach. The exception would be if the P asked to see something specific (for example, "I want to see how you integrate technology and literacy.")
    Kim
     
  38. loves2teach

    loves2teach Enthusiast

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    I always do something a little special- I want it to be something that they will remember.

    We have informal observations 1-3 times a week by my admin and academic coach, and 1-2 times a month by our elementary director. I am not on a "evaluation" year- so no formal observations this year. Will have 2 informal ones next year I think. Will be observed teaching week after next for a writing thing, which I am doing something special for ;)
     
  39. MissScrimmage

    MissScrimmage Aficionado

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    This was my first year teaching... ever... and I didn't have an observation. My principal wandered through twice, but I have been left alone. My admin is confident in what I'm doing. My door is always open and they know what is going on in my room. I think I would do a regular lesson for an observation. If I jazzed up the routine my kiddos would be "off". It's just easier to keep things the same. I try to plan interesting and engaging lessons every day.
     
  40. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    Good point MissScrimmage, while my principal hasn't done a formal observation on me this year - or in the two previous years, for that matter - though that was largely due to the actual jobs I was in... behaviour intervention isn't something that's easy to come in and observe a lesson... I could plan a lesson, but if that kid comes into my room on a bad day, that lesson goes out the window! (Or in my situation, door, since I didn't have any windows) My formal observations last year were based more on the success of my students.

    Anyway, back to the point, my door is always open (unless there's too much noise) and my principal wanders in and out fairly often. He knows the kind of teacher I am, and I feel no need to do a snazzy lesson that impresses him.
     
  41. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    We are supposed to. They put me on the MPAS (which I didn't sign up for because I wanted the yearly evaluations). So the last 2 years my "summative conference" has consisted of "here, just sign this". This year I asked my assessor twice when she was doing her observations to come observe me, never happened. In the last 2 years she's come watch me teach for a total of 10 minutes. Needless to say I'm requesting that one of the other admins be my assessor next year. I'm an experienced teacher and they trust that I'm doing my job, but that doesn't mean I still can't be given ideas of what to work on.
     

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