Observation…another one.

That’s it at last my observations bar one are complete. 

I had been hoping for an observation during a ‘difficult’ lesson so that I could pick up some pointers on coping with behaviour issues or sensitive issues or a totally unforeseen disaster of some kind. I really wanted to test myself out in adverse conditions to see how I perform and cope while I’m still in this learning phase and I have so much support around me. I’ve been doing so well with observations lately and kind of know my strengths and areas for improvement but I have no idea how my teaching stands up in a difficult class. Today I found out…

It was always going to be a difficult class when a student who had previously left the course returned… issues of saving face, embarrassment, being forced by parents, that awful feeling of back tracking were all to be anticipated because they may all be present or some of them at least. I’d hoped it would be a new attitude and a slot back in with no issues in this case but I was wrong.

Funnily enough (got to see the positive) I have never had problems with the student who put me to the test (be careful what you wish for) so it was kind of a curve ball when it came.

I won’t go into detail but it was a challenge and it wasn’t only difficult to manage the learner but to manage the way the behaviour made me feel and the impact it had on the whole class, the usual happy, light atmosphere was quickly destroyed and tension replaced it. This impacted on the other students in that they were uncharacteristically subdued and not very forth coming in discussion at first.

I brought things around eventually, engagement happened before the end of the class and all students were involved in the teaching and learning process. I was looking forward to my feedback but at the same time being a natural in action reflector I knew (or thought I did) where I’d made mistakes and where I might have handled something better. I was disappointed after so many good observations to feel like I was ending on a bad one.

BUT, if this ever happens to you don’t be downhearted, because of course as the teacher being observed it is not the fact that students misbehave that you are being ‘judged’ on, it’s the way you react to that and manage it and the impacts it has on yourself and the rest of the class. That is what your observer is looking for. I didn’t even think about the planning of the lesson being good, I didn’t think of the delivery of the lesson being good, I didn’t think about all of the good things I’d done (or all of the outstanding things I’d done) I was dwelling on the bad things the learner had done without realising that largely I was managing the situation very well.

So I was surprised to see that I had a generous smattering of 1’s on my feedback and lots of 2’s and the odd 3 which I was totally over the moon with considering I’d expected a full sheet of 4’s.

It just made me realise, it doesn’t matter what class you are teaching when you are observed it’s you that is being observed. As teachers with this amount of theoretical and practical teaching behind us now we should be able to handle most situations without the lesson totally failing to achieve its objectives and without any teaching or learning taking place.

Whatever happens we need to remember that’s the focus of our assessment, not the behaviour of the students, not the functioning of the IT or whatever but the way we deal with all that and still deliver the lesson we planned to deliver, or as close as possible to it.

That’s how you can have the learner from hell in your classroom and still get 1’s. 

Besides that there is so much to reflect on after a tough lesson and so much theory to relate to your reflection which is essential at level 7. I’m going to enjoy this reflection more than any other.

At the end of the day the learner got frustrated with the class, being at college, the lesson, peers and me, I managed all of  that  and still delivered the lesson as planned and after observation when everyone was settled on a task we stepped outside and had a chat and the strong relationship we had was restored and strengthened further.

There were no hard feelings, a deeper mutual understanding and in the end the whole experience was turned from a negative into a positive and that was due to the teacher I am. Feedback helps you see that and appreciate that and realise that you’re doing quite well at this after all.

I’ve learned a lot today, as a teacher I have a whole new bag of tricks to draw on and as a person I’ve learned I’m a pretty good teacher, even when I am challenged.

What made it even more of a positive day was when at the end of the day one of the students stayed behind to tell me how much they’d loved studying the unit and what an impact it had had on their life and after spending so much time not being sure of where they wanted to go they had decided that they wanted to get involved in further study with a view to securing a place in the future working in product design and promotion.

Those little things really make a tiring day really worthwhile and I left with a spring in my step which could quite easily have not been there.

I’ll blog about my learning curve with my other class today later. I have a family and some dinner calling… 

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