So, That Happened

I got observed today.  It wasn’t a formal observation or anything.  More like a surprise inspection.  My principal and vice-principal came in unannounced and observed my third period lesson and asked students questions.

I don’t think it went well.

The feedback I got was that I’m not giving clear enough instructions (Because part of what I was doing was seeing how well they follow instructions), I’m not encouraging enough talking and discussion (because the observation ended before the discussion portion), and I’m not checking on their work enough (because I can barely hobble around my classroom).

I know…positivity.  This is my challenge.  I get constructive criticism and I take it personally.  See the paragraph above.  See my immediate defensive comments in parentheses.  This is something I really need to work on.  But as the sage said, in order to get out of jail you first need to realize you’re in jail.

We also had a math department meeting today.  The main focus was how to facilitate classroom discussion and how to get students to comply.  There were five main points:

  1. Make sure to give clear and concise instruction.
  2. Explain in the instruction what the desired response is.  Are students to write down the answer?  Share out?  Will one student be called on?
  3. Give an exact time limit for how long they will work.  Try to be as accurate as possible, keeping in mind it is better to end early (telling them they have two minutes and then stopping after a minute and a half) than end late (telling them they have two minutes and actually giving them three).
  4. Stand back and observe the class before you start to circulate.  Look to the “MVPs” first.  As you walk around you will be listening to student discourse.  This is your opportunity to watch.
  5. Complement and critique the discussion, not the math.  Remember that the discussion is the goal.  Give positive feedback for positive behaviors (i.e. “You did a good job explaining your diagram.”)

A recommended resource was  Edutopia for new thinking about teaching.

I talked to a fellow math teacher about interactive notebooks and how I’m just flummoxed by it all.  As we talked and she showed me the one she’s making for her Algebra 1 class, it occurred to me that I could make my own this year to get a feel for it as I go along, and then if I feel it is something valuable I could work it in to my classes next year.

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