Wednesday, January 2, 2008


The only time I am nervous while teaching is when I am about to be observed. I am not nervous when I am being observed, only when the ominous observation still looms in the future. I always want everything in my observation to be "just right." I want my students to be on task and with me every step of the way. I want everyone to be on time. I want myself to be clear and concise, but also engaging and entertaining. The desire for perfection definitely strains the nerves, regardless of how much I am willing to admit to it.

Once the lesson starts, I am back in my element, and I have no trouble conducting it. But, it can certainly be difficult trying to get that great lesson in place. I think I would feel less nervous if someone observed more than one lesson at a time. If a person watched me teach an entire book, say, Of Mice and Men, then every lesson would have its context and that individual could see how one of my ideas would flow (or not) into the next. But, when one has but a single shot at a time, he wants it to be the best shot he could possibly take.

My first observation occurred on September 29, 2005 in an English 2 CP class. I was teaching the Crucible and I was startlingly nervous. My objective for the class: students should be able to list the reasons why John Proctor is imprisoned and charged with witchcraft. The objective is passable, although I don't know that I would still write an objective like that, unless out of absolute necessity. I also developed some interesting activities, including one in which I asked the students to think of reasons they would lie and another in which I wanted the class to rank the characters according to morality. The serious problem here is that the activities do not closely relate to the lesson objective. At this point in my career, I was not thinking about a single class as a whole unit, one in which everything should work together. I just wanted to be impressive with my excellent ability to think of great activities and relate them to books. The problem: the lesson really did not strike anyone as impressive. It was simply incomplete. To view my own (immediate) evaluation of that lesson, please click on the picture embedded within the text of this entry. To read my post-observation evaluation, please click here.

Fast forward two years, to my observation of one week ago. For this observation, I conducted my lesson on Kurt Vonnegut and "The Lie." This is a truly polished and impressive lesson (for the history behind this lesson, please click here). It is everything that I wanted that first observation to be. Of course, it took me two years to arrive at this point. Nothing comes without seriously strenuous work. For this lesson, I had to put all of the pieces, from the activities to the objective to the assessments, together as one. Reading the post-observation evaluation (click here), the differences between this lesson and my first observation are night and day. I am certainly not the same teacher now that I was when I started two years ago. And that is all for the best.

Written: 10/2/07

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