Teacher observation #1

Though I taught for some years internationally, I never observed another teacher’s class (well, except for the grade two Arabic class I sat in on to practice my Arabic).  I would like to observe teachers in areas outside of my own (art) because good teaching can translate well to many types of classrooms and subjects.

Tuesday I did my first teacher observation.  I observed a grade twelve AP English class.  They were reviewing essays they had turned in on a story they had analyzed and were reminded about the homework reading (the introduction to Beowulf) and given some background information about it.  I enjoyed the lesson so much I wished I were in AP English.  One of the things I noticed was that English teachers talk to the class as a whole much more than art teachers do.  We tend to work one-on-one most of the time.  Even with all the lecturing, the teacher kept the lesson interesting.  She moved smoothly from vocabulary, to ballad metre, to essays, to the reading, to history, to maps, to homework.

The lesson was very organized but did not feel rigid.  As she reviewed homework, the teacher asked students about the vocabulary words they were supposed to use in a sentence.  She told the class that she was going to call on everyone but if a student felt they did not have a good example for that particular word, she would move on and come back to them later.  I like this.  I think this technique makes it easier for the students (the kind of worrying, self-conscious students like I was in high school) to listen to all the answers without focusing instead on when they will be called on.  Interestingly, none of them opted out of answering.  Even the students who felt they did not have the best example answered and said why they though it might have been better.

All of the students seemed engaged and interested.  The teacher reviewed essays the students wrote and showed several examples, talking about how they were good and how they could be better.  As she critiqued or corrected students, she did it in a clear, matter-of-fact way but it was obvious she was telling them so they would improve, not simply to point out their flaws.  It was superbly done.

This teacher is enthusiastic about English in the way that a real literature lover is.  It seemed obvious to me and I imagine to the students, that she really cared about what she was teaching.  She wants her students to understand the language; how to use it, how to analyze it, and how to write it so they will get the enjoyment that those things will bring them.

I would like to spend most of my observation time watching teachers who do things well so I can learn.  I asked several students who their best teacher was and why.  I got a few names and plan to approach those teachers next.  The students are the ones who see the different teachers teaching, so I think their suggestions will be really interesting.  My next observation is scheduled for tomorrow.

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~ by Anita West on September 20, 2012.

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