…the obvious follow-up question is “What the hell do we do about it, Tony?” I guess I could simply say “improve” your CULTURE and CLIMATE, and you’ll be alright, mate! But, I doubt if that would inspire many of you to drop in and check out Part 03! Clearly, drawing up a list of problems is a lot easier than coming up with solutions for all of them – maybe, that’s why so many people like checklists!
Yes, you were right - you did smell "true teaching story" on the way! I was working on a train-the-trainer programme a while back - I loved the group and we’d done some great work on a wide range of teaching and learning areas over the weeks before. Over time, I watched them grow as "reflective practitioners", "critical questioners" and "peer mentors". The time came for us to look at “classroom observation” - they were a bit worried about stepping out of their comfort zones. So, I spent a long time thinking about ways to "ease" them all in and make sure they got really comfortable - before "throwing them in at the deep end". To help get them there, I’d developed a really great set (well, I thought so) of case studies, discussion themes and activities. I was gonna LEARN them so well... The first of these was based on a discussion about the type of “observer” everyone wanted to be (when they “grew up”). I used something like this to kick things off:
Until we came to “getting our hands dirty”…with a few role-plays! In almost every single scenario and roleplay, my darling padawans (and they were) “tore” each other to pieces. It was almost as if they transformed into Sith Lords in front of my very eyes – not only were they experts and finding every single “problem” (while ignoring the strentghs), it was as if they took pleasure in telling their “observees” not only “what to fix” ...“how to fix them”…but even "when to fix them"!
So, what the hell happened? Culture happened! ...and, when push-came-to-shove – my trainees went straight back to what they "knew" (and had experienced) or what others had "LEARNed them observation was all about"! They had “heard” the things I shared with them (heck, they even co-created these things with me) and they were “talking-the-talk” - but what they had been LEARNed (over time and in a very “subtle” manner) guided their “actions”. Many of them did not even notice – until one brave soul stood up and said “we really screwed up, didn’t we?” Remember that also this all happened despite the fact that these “guys” were “dedicated”, “smart” and had really bonded as a group (and cared for each other). They simply forgot that “TEACHing is emotional work” and that “observation" and (more importantly) "observation feedback” is deeply “personal”.
In a nutshell – they did the “job” and forgot about the “person”!
What type of broader culture do we want to drive our institution / observation process? Why?
What type of culture do we have as an institution / in our current observation process right now? How do we know this?
What matters to us as an institution / in our observation process? How do we reflect this in the ways we “do business”?
What needs to change for us to get closer to the type of culture / observation process we want?
Indeed, they can also help with a lot more than classroom observation processes!