Schools of today hold a variety of challenges. First and foremost, schools should be learning communities where teacher improvement comes from a plethora of sources. Generally speaking, teachers often focus on the content, materials needed, and the activities necessary for the lesson (Roberts & Pruitt, 2003). Teachers, who plan usually plan in isolation, often worry more about covering a list of required content rather than focusing on true student learning. This type of teaching, in my opinion, is a one of the most tremendous challenges facing education today. Many of the teachers in the elementary grades at my school feel this pressure. Although we are to be teaching the same material at the same time as the other in our grade level, there is little planning time to help us focus on this. This fact, along with the adoption of Performance Standards, led me to see the need to introduce teachers to the idea of sharing ideas for lessons, reviewing student work samples, and planning cooperatively on a regular basis that focus walks and peer observations of classrooms.
In contrast, schools operating under a community learning approach to planning for student achievement use teacher discussion as a springboard for improve teaching strategies. Along with this discussion brings about the need for observation of classroom teaching practices. Within my school’s context, most teachers only are observed by the principal for their state mandated “official” observations. Knowing this fact, I first chose to come up with a list of reasons for encouraging teachers within my school to become open to the idea of teacher observations within their classrooms. This list includes the following reasons for teacher observations.
Teacher observation nurtures a culture in which we can work in partnership and learn from one another.
By working together, we have a greater knowledge base and this fact strengthens our pedagogical beliefs.
Teacher observation builds community and a sense of caring in our school.
Teacher observation increases common shared beliefs and gives teachers an understanding of what effective instructional practice looks like.
Roberts and Pruitt (2003) have stated that observation is a strategy that promotes learning by all those involved. From this process I have learned to encourage reflection and growth among others at my school and thus impacted the learning enviroment of my classroom, as well as that of others. It is important to note that I used the method of clinical supervision my method of observation. All parts, from the pre-conference, to the observation, and the post-conference were pertinent to the process of success of foster collegial relationships and collaboration. Being in this process of classroom observation has been an eye opening and rewarding experience for me. I think that I have found, as have the teacher that I observed, that our school needs to revisit the experiences we provide our students in summer school. Because of our school, which happens to be a Pre-K through 12th grade, is so small, we are limited in how many teachers we can afford to hire to teach students throughout summer school. I understand the limitation of money and having to group several students together. However, we really need to focus the learning on the weaknesses we see in our test scores. This is of the utmost importance if we are to help these students gain the few points that the need in order to be successful on the test.
I also have found that our school has very good teachers that want to grow and share ideas professionally. One of the best ways we can do this is to visit each others classrooms on a regular basis. Just something as simple as an observation or just looking at student work posted in and outside of the classroom is a way for each of us to learn from each other. I feel that the movement in education is to allow us to learn from each other so that we are a community of learners. I have even found that our high school, which has posted little student work in the past, is now displaying some student work with pride. Because of our K-12 status in the building that I teach in, we can all have an understanding of what is necessary for success at the next grade level and beyond.
One thing that I take from this process that I intend on sharing with others is the fact that reflection is a positive thing. We can only move forward if we see that everything we do is not always the best way to do it. Many years ago during my first year of teaching, my principal told me that we need to take time at the end of each day to think about what worked, what did not work, and what changes might be effective. It took me several years to see the importance of this idea, but this only solidifies my understanding of this. While my skills of suggestion have always played a part in my guidance as a mentor teacher, I had to improve my listening skills for this activity. I would like to see others, as well as myself, use teacher observation as a learning tool to improve instructional practices and impact student achievement.
Roberts, S. & Pruitt, E. (2003). Schools as Professional Learning Communities: Collaborative Activities and Strategies for Professional Development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Reflection #3 – Classroom Observations I have been shadowing in Ms. Elizabeth Linville’s second grade class at Speas Elementary School. There are twenty students in the class. On the first day that I was observing, Ms. Wooten was an aide and seemed to help the class as a whole by wandering around and helping with the spelling of words during the writing period of the day. On other days, Ms. Wooten reads a chapter of a book between the last scheduled activity and dismissal. But since the first day, Ms. Wooten has not been present for more than her story reading time at the end of the day. The desks in the classroom are arranged in small table-like structures with five to six students seated at individual desks. Each student’s name is written large and legibly on the corner of the desk in black sharpie. They are also all assigned a number that they write next to their name on every assignment they hand in. There is a daily schedule posted at the front of the classroom and one just outside the door in the hallway. The one at the front has removable nametags to allow for different line leaders and helpers each week. The walls of the classroom offer lots of knowledgeable information. And I do think the information is displayed in a clear way that definitely had children in mind. The alphabet lines the front of the room along the ceiling. The closet doors have the days of the week listed in both English and Spanish and the