Tuesday, November 25, 2008


A principal and five asistant principals walk into a classroom to observe a poor, unsuspecting teacher. Do they expect the class to be normal? Do they expect that the teacher will not be unnerved and and still do a very good job? Do they think it will be business as usual as far as the students are concerned? Or, are they looking to play gotcha?

Things are different at the college level. J is teaching at the community college I where I teach. The school was desperate for math teachers in September and when the chairman called and asked if I knew anyone who wanted to work, I thought of J immediately.

J retired from Packemin HS for a number of reasons. Here I'll just say it was her age. She was tired of working full time. J was not ready to sit home and jumped at a chance to teach in the college.

Last week J had her first observation there. As much as I tried to reassure her that things would be fine, she was nervous. She loves working there and wanted to make a good impression.

J's observation went great. The person observing her loved the lesson and loved everything she did. She praised J up the kazoo when the lesson was over. J was shocked. She taught for over 30 years and never received an observation that was not full of criticisms.

The person who can do no right in a high school setting does no wrong in a college setting. Life is stranger than fiction. The college would never subject a teacher to the scenerio described in the first paragraph. The college does not play gotcha. In NYC public schools, this happens all the time.


Anonymous said...

The high school administrators are useless, except when it comes to harassing and terrorizing teachers. I don't think they would know a good lesson from a bad one--they have the Bloomberg / Klein agenda--break the teachers' spirits, and then get rid of them!!! This is becoming a veritable witch hunt!! These supervisors think they're untouchable, but they are not. Teachers can fight back and GRIEVE them up the wazoo!!

JUSTICE not "just us" said...

Like everything else in our system the observation system that adminstrators employ is a joke.
In 20 years I have had people observe me that:

1. Did not know the content area in which they were judging me on.
In other words I could possibly be making errors in grammar and prounciation in a langauge they did not speak and they would be clueless.

2. Did not observe everyone on the staff. In other words there are teachers that have not been observed in years!

3. Use observations to terrorize and intimidate teachers on the sh*t list.

4. Never, never never were able to show me how they would teach that perfect lesson in a real class room situation.

5. Knew anything about special needs children. In other words how to indivildualize and differientiate for learning disabled and emotionally disabled students.

6. Knew much about behavoir management techniques and how to employ them effectively.

.... an on and on and on and on

Observations are supposed to be for the benefit of the teacher from the principal teacher not a weapon of pyschological warfare!

Schoolgal said...

When I took my administrative courses, not one of my instructors--former principals and working superintendents on Long Island-- would ever find that acceptable.

Books by Michael Fullan were a must read for my courses. To be a change agent, one had to realize that any journey is a slow process.

The first thing I learned was capacity building. He has the right to make informal observations, but he doesn't have to write them up, even if he has a deadline from the DoE to get in a "quota". What he should do is meet with the individual teachers and tell them what he "observed" and allow the teachers to respond. The meeting should be professional in nature and hopefully collaborative in terms of coming to an agreement on what constitutes a good lesson.