The difficulty in observing teachers, especially when you have prior history as coworkers, students, happy hours, etc, is something we've discussed at length here. There were no stakes in my observation, which made it easier, but there were still plenty of problems with my observation.
I sat in the class for about 10 minutes (problem 1) and started to jot down all the things that weren't going perfectly (problem 2). The technology wasn't working properly, there was a single kid out of the entire class on his phone, there were two kids talking instead of listening (even though it was about the content), and she was standing at the front lecturing and asking questions. I was looking for things that were wrong first and everything else second (problem 3).
5 minutes into the observation I threw the whole thing out and started over.
I started to focus more on the things she was doing right. After all, she taught me. I learned. I enjoyed class. Besides, who am I to judge a teacher that's been teaching over a decade longer than I am. Now, that's not to say that every teacher that has been doing this for a long time is good at their job. There are some that are terrible, but she isn't one of them.
The kids, on the whole, were engaged. Those that weren't came back on their own without redirection. The technology eventually worked and was helpful in getting her students to understand the activity. The activity itself, where she had the students drill their own oil well using a topographical map to determine the best sport for it and explain, in writing, their reasoning for placing their well, was interesting. The students were asking deep questions about the relationship between fracking and dependence of the US on Middle East Oil exports. She was smiling, they were smiling, and everyone was having fun while learning.
Why didn't I start out this way? I was observing the way I was observed my first year I taught. I was replicating a practice that I hated. My department head would come in for 5 minutes then tell me I needed to fix 7 or 8 things, then leave as quickly as she arrived. I observed her class and noticed that she sat in her desk for 35 of the 40 minutes in class, had a student pass out worksheets, then yelled at them for doing anything she didn't like.
I once made the mistake of asking her why she didn't do anything of the things she suggested I do. She told me that I hadn't "earned the right to teach however [I] want" and that I should do as she says not as she does.
I had better scores and she quit half way though the next year, so I guess she was right. She gave me some good advice after all.
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