I’ve written about classroom observations before. If you haven’t already read it, you might want to check it out here. Better Classroom Observations: How to break down a door. Go on, click the link, I’ll wait for you here.
Didn’t click the link? That’s all good, I got your back.
If you’re going to visit a classroom, do it for the right reason. Visit to learn. Find the moments of strength and reflect on how you can use it in your own classroom. NEVER criticise or tell them how you would do it differently.
If every teacher in a school visited each other’s classroom to learn, imagine the positive collaborative spaces our schools would become.
So that’s where I stand on classroom visits. POSITIVE ONLY.
But we have to be realistic about classrooms visits. They don’t happen as often as they should. How many classrooms have you visited recently and actually observed what was going on? The answer, no matter the number, is NOT ENOUGH. Seeing others teach is the single fastest way to improve.
The problem, like so many in our profession, boils down to time. We don’t have enough of it. Classroom visits are difficult to organise.
- Do our timetables line up?
- Should I stay for the whole lesson or just pop in for a bit?
- What if, at the time I pop in, there’s just not that much going on (relatively speaking)?
- When will we find time to debrief afterwards?
For people who have been reading my blog for a while, you won’t be surprised by my answer to this problem. MAKE A VIDEO.
Meet the Movie Star
You’re in for a real treat. Below you’ll see a quick video of Jeff. Jeff is a fantastic guy who takes reflective practice to the next level. He’s been doing video self-reflection for a while and thinks deeply about how he’s doing things and how he can improve. Check the video of his lesson intro below.
- He sets a fantastic road map, students know where the lesson is going.
- He links this lesson to the previous lesson.
- He manages behaviour almost imperceptibly, not breaking stride as he does.
- Instructions are incredibly clear, students know what they need to do next.
- Students are given ample time to get themselves set up.
- You catch a brief glimpse of his questioning in this video, but believe me, the extended cut is amazing.
Jeff set this camera up in his room. It’s a swivl, which means it follows him as he moves, not requiring a cameraman. Jeff pressed record and then he pressed stop when he wanted to. Finally, he chose to email this video to me. If this lesson hadn’t gone to plan, Jeff could have deleted the video and made sure it never saw the light of day.
This level of control is empowering in a way that a regular classroom visit just isn’t. Teachers sharing what they are comfortable with is the surest way to encourage them to share more.
It also means that they are sharing their “highlights”. This is great. Because if I’m going to watch other teachers to learn, I’d love to see video of them at their best.
Video Creates Time
So now we have one five minute video of Jeff sitting on a website that is accessible to our whole school. Assuming each of our teachers in the school makes one video, that equates to approximately 11 hours of top notch video.
That’s 11 hours of professional development that each of our staff members can engage in simply by clicking on a video and pressing play. This is PD that teachers can choose to engage in when and where they want it. No more struggling to fit in classroom visits, no more stage fright with another teacher in the room, no more stress.
I’ve said it before but this time I really mean it.