I was answering a sentence completion test at one of the agencies where I applied for a teaching position. One of the items was, "When I am observed by my supervisor I __________________."
Would you like to know my answer? Do you think I gave any of these replies? "I feel nervous." "I feel nothing." "I feel excited." I feel anxious." "I feel uneasy." "I'm scared" "I'm unaffected" If you were to answer, what would you write? Figure out what I wrote based on the things I say below about observations.
Many teachers fear observations, especially when they are unannounced. On the other hand, announced observations are easy to handle because the teacher can prepare a little bit more. This does not mean that the teacher is not ready to be observed or has no preparation time, but it's more 'exciting' because the teacher wants to do their best.
The situation reminds me of the fox in "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint Exupery. "When you pay a visit, I like that you tell me ahead of time so that hours or minutes before you come I will be excited." This goes for teacher observations too in a way.
If observations are a way of snooping and catching teachers out , I think it defeats the real purpose. I have always had a lot of assurances from my supervisors that I should not worry about them observing me because they are simply there to help.
We can't deny the fact that some institutions use observations as a tool to get rid of undesirable employees. But genuine observations are supposed to be an ideal tool for assessing the performance of teachers - in particular for more purposeful objectives like salary increases, promotions and commendations.
However, despite the benefits observations bring, they also cause needless worry, extreme anxiousness, big disappointments, a little discomfort, and a general feeling of uneasiness. They are a bit of a nuisance to many teachers.
So what is an observation? What is it for?
Observation in schools focus on two aspects - teachers and students.
Student observations focus on student performance, participation, behavior, problems, growth, and student-related agenda. The observer only assesses the students and the teacher is not the object of scrutiny. Teacher observation, on the other hand, focuses on the teacher - personality, teaching effectiveness, communication, mastery of the subject taught, strategies employed , assessment of students, etc.
Observations can be formal or informal. Informal ones are those that last for a few minutes like almost drop-in visits. But these visits are still significant because the supervisor may take down notes and later give written or oral feedback, either positive or negative, after the visit. An informal observation doesn't need to be followed by a post conference.
Formal observations on the other hand are more serious. They are usually announced in advance and the supervisor may use video, an observation checklist or a prepared evaluation form. This is usually culminated by a scheduled one-on-one post conference where feedback is given and the teacher may have the opportunity to react to the supervisor's comments.
Many times we hear teachers say, "I had a very high rating yet I was bombarded with a lot of comments. Why is it like that?"
Teachers mustn't question this. The supervisor is only doing the job they are paid to do. If no comments are given, congratulate yourself, it means that the supervisor likes the lesson you presented, or perhaps, your teaching is acceptable to his/her standard.
I think this is what we have to accept. The supervisor has to play the superior role because "the supervisor is a supervisor." Some supervisors have pride in their job. Therefore, they have to show that they are better than the teacher.
If you want to grow in your profession, take your supervisor's comments on board. No matter how excellent we are as a teacher, when we teach, we are not in a position to see our teaching strengths and weaknesses. It takes another person to do this and that is the role of our supervisor.
One good thing to do so that you won't have any fear of being observed, is to invite your supervisor to visit you during one of your interesting lessons. Your supervisor will be glad to accept this invitation. Try it next time.
The second time around, when your supervisor comes into your class, I am sure that it will be different... The 'supervision blues' will pass away and teaching will be a lot more fun - even with supervisors around. What are you waiting for, invite your supervisor now.
So do you know now what I answered? You're right. Your guess is my answer.