After a good conversation with a friend that is getting started with teaching, I was thinking a bit about the process of learning to teach. Things that I obsessed about as a first year teacher come much more naturally now, but if you asked me what I needed to learn in the beginning, I would have babbled on like an idiot. Knowing what to focus on when everything is so new, not to mention feeling you aren’t good at any of it, you understand why it is so easy for students to shut down when we ask them to ‘be responsible’ without helping them understand what we mean. Our job as teachers is to provide students with a framework that will help them be successful in learning what we teach them.
You would hope that guidance in this would be an essential component of teacher preparation programs, but it often doesn’t, particularly in cases where observation is a box to be checked, not a pathway to improvement. There are many frameworks for observation, but I haven’t seen one that specifically gives guidance (or even a curriculum?) for what new teachers should be looking for when in a mentor teacher’s classroom. Most of the observation forms I’ve seen are in evaluating teachers for teacher quality. When I go to watch a colleague, I’m thinking about how I’m going to use what I see to improve what I do, not how to make them a better teacher. I know what I am looking for because I’ve had the keys to my classroom for a little while.
C’mon internet, let’s work together to create this and help our newbies. We were all new to this once, and there’s a lot that we may not realize we are thinking about after pulling out our hair and having teaching nightmares for so long. (Do they ever stop?)
To be clear, the goal is to start conversations between new teachers and their mentors, not put new teachers in a position to evaluate those who are being observed. We want to make the most of this time that is probably the most valuable teacher preparation tool outside of standing in front of a class yourself.
I’ve put a document designed to compile these ideas here:
Please add to the list and snarky-up the title. There may even be a better way to organize this so that it isn’t a big list that again serves only to intimidate. Maybe along the lines of Emergency Compliments?