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Observation Observation

In Buffalo, we recently had a weather "situation" that led to three days in a row off from school. As this "situation" was developing, I had a sinking feeling. Don't get me wrong, I love all weather events and especially those that let me wear my pjs all day and cuddle with my kiddos, all while drinking unlimited coffee because I can go to the bathroom whenever I darn well please. Nope, I was down for a weather day, but my observation was scheduled for the day that was cancelled (in a rare move, the local schools cancelled for Wednesday while we were still in school on Tuesday).

Normally, I don't sweat observations. My district uses the Danielson rubric, and in my training for my School Building Leadership certification, we studied what to look for in a teacher's lesson. I've taught other teachers how to "score a 4" by upping student engagement and demonstrating ways students can own their learning.

But, you know, it isn't actually an ideal situation to leave school on a Tuesday, think you have Wednesday off, then get Thursday, then get Friday, then have a weekend, to return to school to teach a lesson on how to construct a thesis statement. To say that things were surreal is an understatement. With the weekend before included, we'd been in school 2 of the last 9 days.

If I were new, or untenured, or worried that it wouldn't go well, I'd have rescheduled and my administrator would have definitely been accommodating; however, the thing was, I wanted feedback on this lesson because it is hard. Writing a thesis statement about a novel (The Outsiders) while reinforcing all of the structures and grammar we've been working on was going to require heavy lifting on my kiddos part.

What's my "observation" on my "observation?" I was observed 12th period, the last of the day, by choice. I had already taught the lesson 4 times, so I knew the pacing, the stumbling blocks, and the examples that resonated with my middle schoolers. I knew when they'd have questions, and I had made adjustments to my plan. It was a good observation. My students were rock stars. I felt exhilarated, frankly, because at the end of my school day, I'd taught 120 students how to write a thesis statement. It felt great for someone to have seen this happen.

So, my observation is this: teaching is a science of adjustments and calculations, and an art as well, as we each bring our own hues to the picture. It is also an extremely isolated profession, even for someone who writes and tweets and engages like I do. The fact is, we should all be observed more. Not for the Danielson score, of course, and not for assessment purposes or APPR, but for the sheer fact that this is work that needs an authentic audience--not only our students, but others as well--other teachers, admin, but especially those who will be teachers in the future. This magic that takes place in our classrooms needs to provide a model for those who are just starting out. With our new teachers leaving in droves, we might want to consider how modeling (which all good teachers do for their students!) could help. Maybe we need to look at teaching through a new lens--apprenticeship.

I'm not claiming to be the perfect teacher; in fact, I'd love to get into other teachers classrooms to see all the amazing things that happen every day that I've never been privy to! Wouldn't it be awesome if we were ALL given time to apprentice from those who have a skill we don't?

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