Under their watchful eye

28th October 2005 at 01:00
Katy Laws, a reception teacher at Hitherfield primary school in Lambeth, south London, admitted that the mere mention of a lesson observation sent her into a frenzy of panic: "My mind filled with worst-case scenarios and flashbacks of student days when figures loomed in the shadows apparently waiting to pounce.

"But my first observation was fine. The induction tutor was encouraging beforehand, even saying she expected my children to be tired and unco-operative during the afternoon session that she was going to watch - hooray, she understood!"

Because Katy had a reception class, her observation didn't cover one particular lesson but an array of activities. "I was tempted to ensure that they were all as easy and mess-free as possible to promote a smooth operation, but I knew that this wouldn't show my ability as a teacher and manager of that environment so I tried to do exactly what I always did,"

she said.

"Having said that, I spent the lunch hour setting up to perfection, and trying to spot where confusion, arguments and safety hazards might occur.

"Things were going okay when suddenly a child knocked over a cup of chocolate during a 'smelling' activity and soaked a pile of sheets. Oh great, now the activity is ruined, I thought, but I mopped it all up and tried to carry on as before.

"Overall, the session went well, and the children gave me plenty of opportunities to demonstrate the sanctions and rewards I'd implemented.

"After watching my whole-class session, my induction tutor looked at how the whole class was working as well as my focus group, and talked to the children.

"Later that day, my tutor gave me a written sheet of feedback together with an oral explanation. We set really useful targets for my continued professional development, and I was really able to see the value of being observed."

Katy said it was important to remember that the observation process was designed to help, and not to hinder or criticise. "Don't worry about being observed," she said. "You're being watched all the time by support staff, other staff and even the children so it's not much different. We're observed for signs of development, just like when we monitor the children.

"Remember, you're not being observed, you're being supported."

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