Peer observation experience...

I stepped right out of my comfort zone yesterday and did something I haven’t done in a few years… agreed to be observed by a peer, while teaching readers workshop.  In an effort to improve our practice, my principal and literacy coach wanted us to take turns observing a peer and give them constructive feedback.  In turn, they would observe us, and do the same.  Aside from my principal and a few student teachers observing for a day, I really haven’t had anyone watch me teach since my fist year.  I’ve always been leery of having another teacher in the room that may judge me (I was burned in the past by a well-meaning teacher).  I was really optimistic for this opportunity because my friend was coming in to support me and help me grow (as I was there for her too in our journey).  I also appreciated the fact that our principal wanted our reflection of the experience and what we would still like to learn, not an evaluation of the other person.

I watched my sweet friend (we’ll call her Giggles), who teaches kindergarten.  She taught first grade a while back, so we understood the joy and challenges of each grade.  Her management of the workshop was FLAW-LESS!  She stated the teaching point 6 times in 8 minutes- seriously!  If those kiddos didn’t get it something was seriously wrong J  Side note- research says that if we state the main idea 3-5 times, the brain will hold on to it.  Kinders need a few more because they only pay attention ½ the time- ha!, ha!    Aside from the basic structure, Giggles did a few other cool teacher moves that I love and am stealing for my own.

·        Her student engagement piece was a turn and talk that only lasted about 20 seconds.  Enough time to share, but not enough to goof around.

·        She got right down with them during the turn and talk and had one of the pairs immediately share out.  She had a second question for them and she did the same thing- very effective.

·        She called them up individually to get their book bags and sent them back if they did not follow procedure.  She praised those who did as a great example of modeling.  She also encouraged some by saying, “Watch how Jimmy does it-I know he will walk safely and quietly”.  She does it individually to keep the management piece in place (it’s a struggle with this group).  First graders wouldn’t need this, but table groups could work.

Giggles knows her students and their needs!  She keeps awesome records of her conferring sessions.  A girl after my own heart!  We keep similar records.  As she conferred, she had the student restate the teaching point of their individual conference.  She also sends home this each time for the parents:

Can you see how fast I “liberated” this idea?  Less than 24 hours, friends!  Such a smart idea!  How many times do parents say “I just don’t know how to help him/her”? 

I also really appreciated the length of her conferences.  She only spent about 5-6 minutes on each student.  Seriously, we know they stop listening after 5 minutes!  Above all, she filled them with words of encouragement and a drive to succeed on their own.

When Giggles observed me, I tried to pretend she wasn’t there.  I love her- I do, but I was still nervous.  Why would I feel this way about a trusted friend and coworker?  Simple, we all want to do and be the best for our students.  I enjoyed the debriefing of the lesson the best.  I loved talking with her about the nuances of workshop and how much we were able to learn from each other.  Are we perfect?  Heck, no!  However, this exercise did open up more opportunities for conversations and broke the ice for authentic learning by watching another teacher.  That is more valuable than any book!

Thanks, Giggles!