I’m doing another round of formal observations and I’ve decided to change my approach a little bit this time. Well, I’d say my decision is not really a conscious one; it’s actually a result of my previous experience and my mixed feelings towards formal observation in general.
I’m the kind of person who benefits from any kind of criticism and I rarely make the same mistake when my attention has been drawn to it. Metaphorically speaking, explicit ‘correction’ always works best for me, no matter how unpleasant it is and how much I grumble at first.
That’s probably why I was rather harsh when I did my first round of observations. I would write down every detail of the lesson and I would be quite open during the feedback sessions – I would offer loads of tips and advice, and I would explain explicitly why I thought something might (not) be effective. These, for me, were pretty difficult conversations, and I’m convinced that I hurt people’s feelings on a couple of occasions. Simply put, despite my attempts to sound diplomatic, I ended up being too blunt anyway. I fear that not only is bluntness not the best approach during feedback sessions, there’s always the danger that the observer may be completely wrong when
judging advising the observee.
That’s why I’ve decided:
- to relax and take it easy. My train of thought is that if I enjoy the lesson, I’ll see it in a better light.
- to be as unbiased as possible. This means blending with the class and observing without any assumptions and presuppositions. In other words, I’ll take off the what-i-think-is-good sunglasses and I’ll put on the what-the-teacher-knows-is-good-for-this-particular-class dioptric glasses.
- to always have two sheets paper – the official box-ticking form and my personal, off-the-record sheet which I fill with loads of notes (hopefully, nonjudgmental observations).
- to share tips for improvements (from my personal sheet) only if I’m asked for them directly. If I’m not asked, I will forever hold my peace.
- to try really hard to look at the lesson from various angles if I can’t help feeling that it was not very good. There are always little gems hiding somewhere, waiting to be uncovered.
I agree with Zhenya Polosatova when she says in her post that it’s important to ask yourself a few questions before you start any potentially difficult conversation (and I’m sure feedback sessions can be difficult for both parties). For me, the most relevant questions in such a situation would be:
- Based on what I know about this person and our relationship, what can I realistically hope to achieve by having the conversation? (change/progress/improvement or indifference/hostility/anger/frustration?)
- What is my “secret agenda” or “hidden hope” for this conversation? (change/progress/improvement or proving myself and my colleague that I’m more knowledgeable/experienced?).
By the way, after my first observation this term, I was directly asked for some tips and advice, even though this was the same teacher who hadn’t taken my first attempt at explicit feedback very well in the past. We both have come a long way since then, I assume. 🙂