Sunday, November 1, 2015

Observing to See....Children and Each Other

So many videos, so little time.

I am scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed when Seeing Children, a video by Melissa Scott, who works at the University of Chicago Laboratory School, pops up.  Hmmm, 11 minutes I have 11 minutes?  Sure.

Watch it now, don't wait.
Because boy is it worth the time.

Scott deftly captures the bind many teachers are in - caught between assessment and authentic interactions with children, between play and work, between observing as an act of compliance and observing to really inform instruction and know children.    Scott moves between her experiences using Teaching Strategies Gold and then reframes the observation of a child to make meaning of who the child is and what he has accomplished.   Teachers in Somerville raised the same questions Scott raises about TSG, and yet they also recognize the importance of collecting good data about children and using it to plan instruction.

We know we need to continually observe children, but what about each other? Teachers at the Capuano Early Childhood Center in Somerville wanted to know more about Peer Observation, craving time to observe in classrooms other than their own, but needed a structure to accompany this work.  And so this week during professional development time, we begin to examine the purposes of Peer Observation.  An article from EdWeek about peer observation frames the risk teachers take by inviting each other into their classrooms as a heroic act.   Teachers love autonomy, but often that means "leave me alone to do my work in peace".   How can we SEE each other's work more clearly?

At the heart of Peer Observation is feedback.  However this doesn't have to mean constructive criticism, or even appreciative inquiry about the classroom you observed.  Visits can be for the observer and a protocol such as First Classroom Visits from The School Reform Initiative can be a powerful, yet non-threatening tool to help the observer think more deeply about their own practice.  Teachers at Capuano will begin by thinking about the how classroom visits benefit the observer - and about how having a guiding question about your work can open the door to new ways of thinking.

  • What are your questions about your own work?
  • How might observing in a colleague's classroom open your eyes to new practices?
  • How can close observation of children's work and play address your questions about your own teaching? 

This kind of thinking doesn't always come naturally in the busy lives of teachers and intentionally surfacing our questions, taking the time to SEE children and each other, is a worthwhile endeavor.

We will let you know what we see.