Tales from new teachers

27th March 2015 at 00:00
when teaching worlds collide

The problem

It was observation time again. As a newly qualified teacher, you get observed so often (or at least I seem to) that it can feel a bit lonely when you are the only adult in the room.

This time, though, I was particularly nervous. The observer was a colleague whose approach to teaching was very different to mine. He was extremely traditional and my habit of trying new things had prompted a raised eyebrow from his corner of the staffroom more than once. I expected the worst.

The options

I discussed the issue with some fellow new teachers and their advice was mixed. One said I just had to lump it and that style clashes were a part of the job - if I got a bad assessment, then so be it. Alternatively, I could plan the type of lesson the observer wanted to see.

Another colleague said that was rubbish. Instead, I should ensure all the observation feedback was supported by evidence and scrutinised for any hint of bias. "Don't let the miserable bugger get away with it," she said, slightly more riled up than I was.

I also spoke to my mentor about observations and subtly asked what would happen if someone simply had a different style to you. He gave me a look that suggested he knew where I was coming from but played along. He said it was sometimes a good idea to have a chat with the observer after the lesson to explain why you had used certain approaches and why you believed them to be most effective.

The result

In the end, I took my mentor's advice and prepared a document explaining every strategy I had chosen. It listed relevant research, previous use of each technique and my own thoughts about their success or failure with certain students.

When it came to the feedback meeting, I realised that many of my worries had been unfounded. My colleague was actually really complimentary, and although he mentioned his personal reservations about some of the strategies I had used, he said that they seemed to work very well for me.

I showed him my document and it was really useful for framing the feedback session - usually I do something similar verbally, but having the "evidence" in front of me really helped. In fact, I will probably use this approach for all my future observations.

The writer is a newly qualified teacher in the South of England

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