Sunday, September 7, 2014

The dreaded observation

We all face it, we all stress over it, we all feel relief when it's over. I'm talking about the formal observation. It exists for us all, and even though I hate it's just a part of teaching.

This year in my district we are facing a lot of changes that make the formal observation more stressful. Just to name a few of the major changes new Common Core (College and Career if you're here in Arizona) standards. New Curriculum to go with the new standards. I'm working with new admin which always makes for added stress. As always in the face of complicated teaching moments I turn to WBT and it comes through for me.

As I'm preparing and looking at all of the things in the observation and comparing it to the new math curriculum I'm finding that it needs help. Of course I figured this out weeks ago and WBT has become an even more important element in my room.  It's taken the fancy new material and made it a useful element in my room. I'm not going to say the new materials are now super simple, they aren't I'm still struggling to figure it all out. WBT is my go to for making this material student centered, versus the teacher center style of many textbooks.

Let's talk about Whole Brain Teaching and the Observation. 
WBT is all about procedures, you can quickly get the routine down and since it's fun the kids are involved. It's active with hand gestures and that makes it easy to see that you have students engaged. Because we use things like hand gestures and teach-ok the students are taking responsibility for their education, with smiles and all. We are also able to monitor their activity instantly. Teach-ok involves gestures and once a kid stops we know somethings up.

Student engagement is covered, we constantly go back and forth between them interacting and listening/interacting with us (the teacher). WBT forces kids to take ownership of the material regularly, not just at the end. It takes time, don't be afraid of the time you use for teach-ok and repeating/gestures. It adds time but in the end less time than all the reteaching you will do.

Plan down to the minute if you need to to stay on track. Don't drop those little things just because admin happens to be watching and typing all you do. I'll admit it when I'm in the observation, and know I have a strict time to stick too, I get stressed by letting them Teach-ok or start repeating/calling out to me. I regret it more if I start dropping WBT.

After students have had practice with teach-ok you build in higher expectations and start making them really discuss and prove things to each other. My class is there already, I'm amazed by their conversations, my principal was too. We're moving into week 6 and I already have them justifying why without much prompting. But when you practice talking about school subjects 20-30 times a day you get good at it fast.

WBT teachers break down the lesson automatically for our procedures and to incorporate all the wonders of WBT. This breakdown is helpful for the instruction part of the observation. Students need to have things in small chunks. It's easier to get your brain around when it seems manageable. Students will tackle anything for you if they know you work hard make it easier for them to understand.

Personal outcome for me:
I managed to make 2 digit by 2 digit multiplication into a "fun" lesson, words from my principal. I'm just happy someone who isn't in my room daily sees that my students are learning and having fun all at once.

I'll admit it the observation got in my head a bit and I had some "duh" moments when meeting after my lesson. That happens to us all, specially when it becomes such an important moment in our year. Another year of WBT and I what I felt was my best observation yet. All I can expect of myself is to keep getting better and improving.

How about you?
Any other observations coming up? Let me know how it goes!

Or, bring up any exciting moments or worries you have. The WBT community is amazing at jumping in with help or joining in an excited happy dance. Whatever you need!

I'll happily go into more detail about mine if anyone needs it or wants it.