Monday, January 28, 2013

Observe...and be Observed!

One of the most difficult situations for me as an individual is handling criticism.  I am a person that instinctively moves into defensive mode the moment that someone even hints at a suggestion for the way I do things.  Teachers are certainly in a position where this happens on a consistent basis.  With the “feedback” from parents, students, and people within the community; we are frequently met with both positive and negative criticism.  I personally believe that a large reason teachers react negatively is due to the fact that we tend to be planners.  “I already thought through that.”  “My way has worked before and it will continue to work.”  “Thank you for the suggestion but I’m going to do things my way.”  These attitudes can kill a classroom and a teacher in no time.  Our plans may be good but they are most likely not the best.  What can we do to break these attitudes and more importantly improve our classroom?  My suggestion today is: observe and be observed.

When is the last time you used your planning period to observe another teacher in your building?  When is the last time you asked a respected colleague to observe your class and give some suggestions?  I know that if I had someone observing my class that I would work to prepare a meaningful lesson that utilizes my strengths as a teacher.  Should that be any different any other day of the week?  What about observing another teacher?  Think about the infusion of ideas that could take place following an observation of a dynamic teacher.  Observing and being observed can only improve your skills as a teacher.

If you don’t think you’ll be inspired by observing another teacher, check out this video.  This is a friend of mine who teaches students with significant disabilities at a school in New Orleans.  Take note of the patience but also the high expectations this teacher has of her students.  In a simple minute and a half of observation, I was motivated to strive for higher expectations in my classroom.

Today, I am making it my goal to observe a teacher and be observed at least once in the next two weeks.  Will you do the same?  Give it a try and see what you can learn!


  1. Great ideas! This, in most cases, is an easy professional development and growth opportunity. One issue in many Lutheran schools is that teachers do not have a planning period. In those situations, strong administrative leadership is needed to encourage his/her teachers to make these observations a priority.

  2. Agreed. Daniel Willingham, has a section about this in his book "Why Students Don't Like School". He also has good tips as to how to one can go about this: Read page 42 of this:, (actually, you may want to read all of it).