This week I have had the opportunity to be informally observed by my Principal and my Vice-Principal; two people I highly respect not only at our school but outside as well. My principal has been someone I have looked up to since day one at the school September of last year. His understanding of education, how he supports the school’s culture and fosters life long learners. The Vice-Principal was my teacher in high school; she is someone who has been a mentor to me for many years, both directly and indirectly. Like everything in life, both observations held different experiences.
I have asked our admin team at my school to come in an observe me for a variety of reasons. The main reason was so I can I continually improve my teaching and therefore my student’s learning. I can “check in myself with my teaching strategies but having another person come in and look at it from the outside, is a great opportunity. I take my administrators up on informal observations as much as I can!
Both observations this week were with my Grade 10 Applied Mathematics class. It is a group of 23 students, varying from Grade 10 to Grade 12 students. For some students, this is their first time learning the material, while others have taken this class once or twice before. Students come from a variety of backgrounds, like many of the student’s we teach, and many of these students truly believe they “can’t do math.”
Tuesday was my first observation. The class went exactly as planned. The activities worked out better than planned, students were engaged and most came to class ready to learn. Student’s took risks, worked together as a group, and it gave me a chance to focus on their learning and understanding, rather than the classroom management. We collaborated, had multiple opportunities to check for understanding and used technology effectively within our classroom. I was very pleased with how the lesson went and the understanding the student’s gained.
Unfortunately after today’s class, my second observation, I did not have the same feeling. Today, everyone seemed to be having an off day, including myself. After Parent-Teacher interviews last night, the energy in the school was lower and my energy was lower. When the students entered the class, they were not ready to learn. During our opening group activity, they conversations were not focused to their learning, but rather to various conversations about social aspects and the weekend. When consolidating our work, my questioning was off and my explanations and connections were not seamless. We still learned and practiced math; we worked through the challenges we each faced whether social, emotional or just plan off topic. It was not a “pretty” class, but they all cannot be. I understand that and it has taken me all day to be OK with it. We all could have been better, but we all have off days.
It has been a long week for everyone. Beyond the regular school week, it was Parent-Teacher Interviews, the devastating events in Ottawa occurred and it was the first five-day week after a shortened week. It was also a PD Day for Elementary school students.
And it is OK not to be 100% all of the time. No one is 100% all the time and it is the ability to work through those off days that make us strong. How do we work as a group even when all of our members are not in it 100%? How can we support each other to continue our learning in a supportive and positive atmosphere. Today, I think we did that. We let each other have the time to reset and refocus, or to take a moment and make it okay to continue our learning. We pushed each other to complete the activities, but did this positively and respectively, understanding each other’s differences. We worked together and we worked through our difficult day. Monday, we will be able to continue to move forward and keep moving forward.