I had my formal observation on Tuesday. After 31 years of teaching, I still find myself becoming a bit nervous about how my teaching skills are perceived. Or, executed. It doesn’t matter that I have my National Board of Professional Teaching Standards certificate, which is a big name for a process requiring a lot of navel gazing, or that I have had a Masters of Science degree in Elementary Education for more than twenty years. I still want to be the best teacher our Assistant Principal has ever seen.
It occurred to me as I drove to work that morning, that we are being observed every day. It ought not to matter that a specific hour of a certain day has been set aside for formal documentation of a lesson. I teach from 9:05 until 3:35 five days a week, from August to May. And then I live the rest of my life.
When I am driving in the hideous traffic with people cutting me off, or pulling out unexpectedly, my gestures are observed. When my sweet and elderly neighbor comes out of her house every single time we come out of ours, wishing for at least a conversation if not a cup of tea, I am observed. When my husband rearranges the dishwasher, questioning my spatial reasoning skills which were fully adequate for the thirty years before we married, I am observed.
Sometimes, I am not worthy of the observation.
I read the documentation of my lesson, and saw, “a student in the back intertwined his legs throughout the rungs of his chair. Two students were fighting over a pair of glasses off to the side.” I didn’t even see those things! I was so busy ascertaining the class’s understanding of the objective, while trying to instill enthusiasm, that certain activities completely escaped me. What kind of teacher am I? I wondered, distraught at the particulars of the write up.
But when we talked, Robert said that I am an excellent teacher. “The energy in the room is palatable, the kids are dying to learn. They’re jumping out of their seats and standing on chairs so eager to participate. You’re like that guy, what’s his name, Mork, in Dead Poet’s Society.”
Apparently, sometimes my actions are good. Often they’re better than I myself might think they are. But there is always the fact that people are watching, and that I want to produce my best. Even if there is a gap between my expectation and the actual result.
“A strange and unpredictable breach will always exist between what we want to make and what we are able to make.” -Anthony Doerr