What comes to your mind when you hear the word observation? Does it make you nervous, think really carefully about your lesson plan, or even worse, think this might be the end of your teaching career? We have all thought those thoughts and even experienced teachers say it makes them feel nervous. I used to get very stressed over them, but after starting to think of them as a constructive experience that can benefit both sides, the observer and the observed, it has become much better.
It can also be your choice.
If you want to be observed and my advice is to do it with your own initiative from time to time, choose a colleague that you can trust. Trust as in someone who can be honest with you and sit with you afterwards to go into what went well and what didn’t. When I do this, it is great because I can see where I need to work on and what I can keep doing well. Additionally, the person observing can get ideas for their own lessons, or see something you do and adopt it. For instance, a colleague of mine who came into a class to observe me said that he liked the constant feedback I give my students during the lesson. He found it helpful for the students because at that moment they were motivated and if they made a mistake they said for example, Ah ok, if I want to say that…I have to use that tense then?
If you are going to be observed but cannot choose the person who will be the observer, then keep seeing it as a constructive experience. The person who is there (your Director of Studies, someone from the Ministry of Education) might come up with negative comments, which can be hard for the person observed to get over. If you feel that the negative feedback is something you could really fix in your teaching, then use it to your own and your students’ benefit. If the feedback is negative because the person is a negative personality as well (and it happens quite often), then see it as a learning experience again – things that you will never do when you observe someone!
That last point is also one to keep in mind – ask your colleagues whether you can observe them. It is something I enjoy doing as I can see different teaching styles and get ideas for my own teaching. I love the feedback sessions afterwards too.
Observations need not be stressful or make educators feel bad about their teaching. We are all in this together and why not help each other? It can have great results both for us and for our students as well.
Note: Remember to ask your school for permission to observe or get someone to observe you, as in many schools unfortunately it is not practised. The same goes if you choose to go into another school, even if you know the teacher already – speak to the principal or Director of Studies before you go in and explain your plans.
Observation should be a learning experience, either way – a bridge between observer and observed.