Well, I guess it’s that time again. A time for my formal teaching observation. A time for high-stress and a time for high-stakes. After all these years and countless observations, I still get nervous and I still question myself. Why? Why must I do this to myself?
Formal observations, in my opinion, are the worst. You know that feeling as soon as you see your administrator come into your classroom, laptop in hand, and trying to navigate amongst a sea of children, settling down in a child’s chair where they look quite out of place and even more uncomfortable. It’s the same feeling you get when your stomach drops on a rollercoaster. You expect it but don’t expect it. Now it’s time to take a deep breath, center yourself, and begin the lesson.
“Ok students, today we will…by the end of the lesson you will be able to…” I begin to read the smart goal for the lesson. I make sure to repeat myself so that my principal knows I stated the lesson’s objective. Do I normally do that on the day-day? Yes and no, I guess not in the theatrical way I do during observations. What a total waste of 3 minutes. As I continue to talk, my voice gets louder and louder. It’s as if I am trying to speak English to a non-native speaker. No respect for volume and adding crazy gesticulation. Again, why am I doing this?!? My face feels hot and red. My cheeks are permanently stained pink; I feel flushed. As I continue, I begin marching around the room checking in and checking out. I know I am going to hit my step count for that day. I feel manic and need to hit every single point and need to speak to every single student. Do I do this on the regular? Well, I have been teaching almost 15 years, so what do you think the answer is? Absolutely not! Burnout is a real thing and meeting each child for each workshop is almost unattainable, but don’t worry on this day I will. It’s the formal observation, right? Everything becomes a blur, like mixing all the primary colors together until they turn brown. Nothing stands out, nothing is visible. Once the principal shimmies out of that teeny tiny chair, they give a way, and head out the door. Then, I literally go to my desk put my head down and breathe. There could be a fire behind me, explosions going off, and kids hanging out the window, but I don’t care. I am too tired. I am too drained. I feel like I had just ran a marathon. The rest of the day is shot and I have nothing left to give. At least I’m off the rollercoaster and am sitting in the station. I can finally breathe again.
In sum, a formal observation is like using the fine crystal stemware you have tucked away at home, but you maybe use it once a year It looks nice and it’s pleasing to the eye, but there’s no real utility. Actual teaching is like your everyday mugs, dishes, and the like. They’ve got chips, cracks, and stains. They’ve been through the ringer, but you use them faithfully. Maybe one day we can figure out how to make these observations less than contrite. For now, here we freaking go. Buckle up, folks.