If you ask a teacher to recall one of their best teaching moments, I am 100% sure the majority of those asked will say, ” Observations!!” Yeah… um… maybe not. So, I am going to write two posts, maybe even more (yeap, cause one is never enough) about this ‘hot’ topic. This post will focus on my first observation, my next posts will be about… (I ain’t gonna tell you. It’s a surprise!!). Oh! I am going to add a hash tag #1stobservation cause I would really like to read other teachers/bloggers’ stories as well, and cause blog challenges are fun, you learn!!
Let me start by saying that I got properly observed for the first time in 2011. I had already been teaching for about 13 years, but only then did I experience an observation. Actually no, scratch that. My first ‘observation/spying experience’ happened when I got my first teaching job at a private language school in Athens. The owner of the language school stood behind the door and probably listened to what I said during the session. I know she was there cause I could see the top of her head from the door window, and she made a few comments regarding the lesson. So, that was my first ever kinda observation. Can’t really say much about that one, so let’s get down to business and go back to 2011. As I said earlier, the first proper observation happened when I got my first EAP job in the UK.
(FYI: in Greece teachers don’t observe other teachers, at least they didn’t back in the day when I first started teaching. Some teachers may get observed when they first start teaching in the public sector but not always).
When I first heard I was going to get observed, I panicked. I thought to myself, ” Oh! No! What if I mess up? What if my coordinator/observer doesn’t like my lesson?” As part of the observation process, I had to go into the office and share my thoughts about what I was planning to do. I got a few suggestions from my coordinator, and then went home to make my super duper lesson plan. I had objectives, lesson outcomes, anticipated problems, tasks analysed, the lots. I was set. I had designed the crème de la crème of lessons!!
The day in brief: It was a reading class I remember. I decided to seat my students in two horse shoes. The students were seated in such a way that they could actually see each other. I cut the text into two parts. I was going to do jigsaw reading. I thought that it would be a good idea to pre teach each group’s unknown vocabulary. I did. Then the students read their texts, group A and group B. I then moved students around, so they formed pairs one student from group A, one from group B. They now had to talk about the whole text. They did. I read the instructions for the exercises, once, twice, checked to see if they understood the instructions.They then did the reading comprehension exercises. We then did whole class error correction and checked all the tasks. All in all, a good lesson. My students were engaged, on topic and there was a really good atmosphere. So, while I do want to toot my own horn and tell you all the great things about this session, I won’t. Nope. I will talk about weaknesses. So, now fellow reader/teacher can you spot the weaknesses in this lesson? What could I have done differently?
My instructions: I read them 3-4 times. I thought that by repeating everything they would, at some point, get it. I should have read the instructions, asked CCQs and done an example with them.
Pre-teaching vocabulary based on texts: I taught and checked group A’s vocabulary and then group B’s. While I was working with group A, group B was in Lala land and vice versa. I could have ignored the unknown vocabulary and not pre taught it, or asked them to use a black marker and delete all their unknown words, and only read the words they understood and then deduce meaning from that. I could have also given them dictionaries and asked them to look for words if they thought it was necessary.
My tasks: The jigsaw reading was done all wrong. I should have told them to read the texts, take notes. I should have then taken away the original texts, and then put them into pairs. Afterwards, I should have asked them to recreate the texts based on their notes.
My super duper lesson plan: was too super duper. I made a lesson plan that resembled the ones I did during my MA, the ones that were part of my dissertation. It was not at all practical. I flipped through pages and was panicking a lot!! I could have just used ticks and post it notes!!!
Checking tasks: I spent a lot of time checking errors and correcting tasks. I could have showed on the projector some of the answers, did a bit of peer correcting as well.
After the lesson I had a meeting with my coordinator. He gave me some very helpful suggestions. I learnt, took a deep breath and prepared the next lesson.
So, yeah. That was it. I survived my first observation and I learnt so much from it! If you do write a blog post about this and add the hash tag #1stobservation, please let me know!! If you want to leave a comment, feel free to do so.
Till next time…..