Reflecting – “…through a mirror darkly…” Keith
So, term starts, and there you are in the classroom, pen in hand, notebook at the ready, senses sharpened, dutifully primed (Christmas pun intended) by the well-oiled operation of the Warwick CPE induction team (leave that one with you!) and ready for applying yourself to observation. Observing, do it all the time, have done pretty much since birth, should be good at it. Off we go. An hour later and that’s one down. Much as I thought. Kids lined up, came in, sat down, slapped down a bit for being noisy, reminded that underlining is done with a ruler and, according to my notes, did some exercises. Oh yes, I recognised a strategy or two going on: countdowns; gentle rebuke to the disengaged; reminder of expectations. There we are job-done.
A week or two passes, more notes are taken when the sneaking feeling that these notes are all much the same and, dare I say, somewhat dry and moribund. I’m even writing down the topics and annotating the exercise questions? There are now bits of scaffolding jottings in my pad where I have broken away from observing to get involved in the doing (not that there is anything wrong with that per se). But is writing about whether the ladder leaning against the wall is safe, really going to help my classroom practice (short of the classroom’s openable windows being elevated to a significantly lofty location.)? I need to re-focus, and probably even take-a-look at the session we had on ‘observation’ at uni., which, I am sure, would have almost certainly been useful. Ah yes, focus on one aspect, study all the techniques used for BfL or AFL or differentiation. Makes sense. Right, I’m ready to go. I’m focussed. A few lessons pass. A quick look at my notes. What! Is that all I’ve written? Even some of my least diligent pupils would have recorded more than that! Needs re-thinking, but for now I need to concentrate on delivering my first full lessons.
What went well? I emerged, relatively unscathed. Excellent level of heat generated, possibly accompanied by a flicker of light. What, ‘could be better’? I’m left reflecting, but the next lesson is imminent, so I’m back to a bit more ‘observing’.
The Epiphany. Ah! so that’s what’s been happening. The Teacher ensures the students are admitted in good time, they are settled quickly, they know the routine, they have stuff to do immediately. The teacher glides effortlessly and with minimum instruction to the main focus of the lesson. The students are all, according to their respective needs, and with a relaxed freedom, on task. A flicker of disengagement is smoothly quelled and students are transitioned easily through effortless orchestration from the steady to appropriate, more challenging, tasks. Students are acting as autonomous agents, doing work, at consummative ease in an environment of unspoken, yet understood, boundaries. There is peer to peer support. The teacher is almost subliminally aware of the proceedings. There is a sense of safety and mutual respect, which seems to underpin the whole operation. Assessment of learning leads to a careful transition of tasks achieved effortlessly due to prior preparation. A brief round-up and the class ends. Students are reminded firmly but respectfully of the exit procedure. Staff and students are relaxed and smiling as they depart.
Funny, for all those previous notes and years of experience of ‘observing’, I somehow seemed to have missed all that, until I’d had a go myself.