Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Observed

I was observed teaching one of my classes today. I have no idea what my observer thought (we haven't had our debriefing), but every time I looked up she was flipping over yet another page of her legal pad in order to keep writing, or she was studying me with what I automatically interpreted to be a look of utter, what-the-hell-is-she-doing-up-there? bewilderment. By the end of the period I felt like an incomprehensible spaz who had no business teaching college students.

And yet, had I not had an observer in the room, I'd have considered it to be an above-average class: crammed full of material and a little manic, yes, but fun and productive all the same.

Which means one of two things: either the class was just fine. . . or I have vastly misjudged my own competency as a teacher.


[UPDATED TO ADD: although I still haven't had a chance to sit down and talk with my observer, I've received her typed report, and it's entirely positive. I know that the genre more or less mandates a positive spin (the observation report seems to be like the recommendation letter in that respect), and I do want to get her feedback on a few specific issues--but it's still nice to know that I don't entirely suck as a teacher.]

9 comments:

Breena Ronan said...

I'm sure you were great. Don't you think that we are always much harder on ourselves than other people are?

Tiruncula said...

Being observed is always so stressfull. I'm sure you were fine, too. I know the couple of times I got to observe others (the one semester I was tenured, he he), I took copious notes so I could mention lots of specific positive things when I wrote it up. Otoh, I always preferred being observed by my superenthusiastic colleague who nodded in encouragement whenever the students or I made any remotely germane point.

Horace said...

Also, I wouldn't worry too much about the frantic writing...When I observe classes, my first goal is to write down everything that happens, good, bad, or indifferent. If your class was jam-packed with stuff to think about, then your observer's notes were probably also jam-packed.

Hilaire said...

Oh, how stressful! But if your class was full and alive, I can't imagine finding anything really bad in it...

New Kid on the Hallway said...

I'm sure you were fine! I'm sure the observer's expression wasn't so much what-the-hell as just intent focus on what you were doing. :-)

(I haven't observed other faculty for the purposes of reviewing them, but whenever students do presentations, I take tons of notes. In one of my classes last spring it became a joke - there was a little group of students who'd bet on how many pages I was going to write each time.)

medieval woman said...

Maybe her look meant, "oh god, why can't I teach like that??"

negcap said...

Yeah, I'm with T. and H. - if you say there was a lot packed into the class she was probably tyring to capture it all.

Although I would have the same anxiety about it - I've never been "observed" before, not counting giving lectures/leading classes as a TA. There was no legal pad involved there.

Kristen said...

Several times when I've been observed the professor has taken a significant amount of notes, and has then said, "Well, you did great." And that was that. All those notes may be positive feedback, so I wouldn't worry too much!

Tenured Radical said...

I have a colleague who takes tons of notes whatever you are talking to her about -- local restaurants, the tenure process, whoch teams will make the Final Four: she would have taken tons of notes watching you teach too. What I have always wanted to know is, what does she do with the notebooks?

Also, I don't know when your next review is, but as an (ahem) senior person, it is often good to have those notes for the time, a year or so down the line, when you have to say something specific and cogent to others.