December 10, 2012 by gemmalunn
After 4 years of teaching, numerous observations of peers, and nerve-wracking observations from bosses I thought it was time for me to see how my classes looked from the other side.
I wanted to observe myself for several reasons:
– I have been writing a teaching journal for a little while now so self observation felt like the next natural step in my reflective journey.
– I wanted to answer the following questions –
a) Do I teach how I think I teach?
b) Do I speak as slowly and clearly as I think I do?
c) What does it feel like to be in one of my lessons?
d) What do students (Ss) do when I’m not looking / giving them attention?
e) And most importantly how can I improve my pedagogy?
I purposely didn’t think too much beforehand about specific areas I wanted to get information on because I didn’t want it to alter the way I taught the class.
– 2 x Grade 2 classes (14-15yrs old)
– Listening part of the chapter
– To do required listening activities
– To introduce and practice the expression – can you do me a favour?
I chose grade 2 classes as this is the grade I find most ‘challenging’! I would have much preferred to sit down and watch a lovely grade 3 class who keenly answer all the questions, willingly do any activity I propose, all participate and even ask questions! But I knew it would be more beneficial to observe the classes I need most help with. I chose one of the better (in terms of behavior not level) grade 2 classes (A) and one of the not so good classes (B). I have been reflecting a lot on the latter recently trying to think of ways to engage students more and tweaking activities etc. I think the underlying problem is discipline, class B is particularly unruly and myself and my Korean co-teacher struggle to keep students attention; I should add here that discipline is not one of my strong points and I’m lucky insofar as my co-teachers normally deal with discipline issues. I have written several journal entries and reflected on points in the class using the ELC to try and think of ways to make the class better and to a certain extent these have worked and helped (see previous post). By observing two classes I wanted to see if my demeanor was any different, do I start class B in a more negative way bringing in feelings from the previous week? Is my attitude affecting the mood of the class? Are my feelings good or bad, apparent to students?
There are obviously some external factors that affect the classes which I’ve taken into account:
– Class B is on a Friday afternoon so I know Ss are tired and they’ve had enough of studying.
– My Co-Teachers: all my Co-Ts are great but obviously they affect the classes in different ways.
– Teenage girls – I don’t need to say anymore on this point!
What did I learn?
I watched both videos all the way through taking various notes (see mini disclaimer below before you do this!). These are summaries of the answers to my initial questions:
a) Do I teach how I think I teach? – Kind of, but what I found worrying was how some of my actions in class are not in line with the teaching principals and methodologies that I believe in. In short I don’t always practice what I preach. Nothing as serious as I beat all the Ss yet I don’t believe in corporal punishment! But enough to make me realize I need to be more conscious both when planning and in class to ensure that the activities I set and my actions in class do follow my teaching beliefs. For example, I aim to make my lessons as student-centered as possible yet from watching the classes I can see examples of how I’m not fully achieving this aim.
b) Do I speak as slowly and clearly as I think I do? I think for the most part I was pretty clear and slow but there were a couple of occasions where I mumbled things to myself! As I feared there was quite a lot of unnecessary teacher talk; something I’m now very conscious of reducing.
c) What does it feel like to be in one of my lessons? This question is much more difficult to answer than I expected, leading me to think that probably only my students can answer this as they are the ones participating. Therefore I will comment on the atmosphere of the class from a different perspective: all students looked relaxed and on several occasions the whole class shared a joke. As you would expect interest varied between students and activities. However, there was a clear relationship between the type of activity and students’ posture, i.e. interest and this was much more apparent from the view of the camera. I expected class B to look like an unruly mess but it didn’t; yes some students were doodling, speaking when I was, applying lipstick, waving at the camera but in-between this most of them completed the activities!
d) What do students do when I’m not looking / giving them attention? Pretty much what you would expect teenagers to do! In hindsight this question was not very useful. Going forward I will use more specific questions which look at group dynamic and language such as: what language did students produce among themselves? How did they complete the tasks?
e) How can I improve my pedagogy? I came up with lots of answers to this question (too many to post here!) and there was quite a range from small changes and tweaks to fairly significant things that link into question a. For example, I think it’s important for teens not to be sitting for a whole class yet I did not include an activity which involved movement in this class. (I’ll add more detail on this question in part 2)
f) Do I start class B in a more negative way bringing in feelings from the previous week? Unfortunately, I did. Within the first few minutes it’s obvious that I’m annoyed with the Ss as they are not listening. When I compare the two classes I have more patience with A, probably because I know they only need to be told once. I have a look of ‘here we go again’ when class B start acting up. So, this is something I need to be more aware of and change.
g) Is my attitude affecting the mood of the class? And are my feelings; good or bad, apparent to students? When I was feeling frustrated with the class and even when I discussed their behavior with them at the end of the class I think I came across as calm and reasonable even though I did not feel this way inside! However, as noted in question f I need to make sure I approach each class equally, letting go of any negative feelings from the previous class.
I’m sure anyone who has watched a recording of their class will agree with me when I say this was invaluable; I wish it hadn’t taken me 4 years to learn this! Going forward I
want to will make self-observation a regular part of my reflective practice.
Mini disclaimer: Since I watched the initial recordings I have been ‘exploring’ my classes through John Fanselow’s Breaking Rules Course and I’ve realized that they way I used my recordings, whilst extremely useful, was probably not the most effective. Therefore, Part 2 will illustrate a quicker, more effective, non-judgmental way to use class recordings.