Wednesday, February 27, 2008

observation :: reception

My husband has been giving recently, feeling some compulsion to feed my addiction to photography (and to flickr). For my birthday, it was a long lens, and we've taken it out eagle watching (caught this and this) and to the beach in Florida (where I could chase this poor bird down the foamy edge). Then came the fish eye, a lens I always wanted when I was younger, but doubted I'd ever own. In the same shipment, came the macro attachment. I am completely floored by what I can enlarge, bring into bigger perspective, what I can see using this microscope of a lens.

The world has suddenly become a bit more attainable, which is a pleasant thought for someone awaiting the responses of finicky graduate schools. In reach. Allowable for meditation, quiet contemplation, receptivity, experience.

Today I had my second observation at school. Ordinarily, I would push for the second, then the third, get them over with before I am exhausted and cranky just before spring break. At my last school, we had the freedom of scheduling each; at this school, the last is a drop-in, a surprise visit. While this is actually a fabulous idea (I did appreciate that my last school's principal once dropped in on my class, wandered around as we were studying, said hello and left, just to see what was going on--I think this keeps us incredibly accountable, but also sends a message to the students that the teacher is not the only one watching them), it terrifies me. What if she comes in on an off day? Or a day when I am being naughtily lazy? Or, as it has been recently, feeling short-tempered, receptive, instead of the goodness and patience that is being a teacher, but to the ease at which scolding occurs?

I am best at playing what-if. It's a hidden talent I have, working myself up into a frenzy. We can add that to sleeping, and I think I'm halfway toward my first major award. A plaque or maybe a shiny trophy.

Last night I had a dream that the observation went terribly: I couldn't control the class, I couldn't get them to leave at lunch time, I took a shower and returned in a towel, I hid behind a pillar because I had given up at being so bad, stopped teaching altogether, then, in the last ten minutes, I had a burst of "good teaching," but she came up to me (and in the dream she was short and blonde and my classroom was a library/computer lab) and mentioned letting me go toward the end of the week.

In reality, the observation was fine. It was a good hour, perhaps the best of the day for that particular lesson, and the kids were fairly receptive to what I had to say. The Odyssey is a fun text to teach a freshmen class; they are sweet and enthusiastic and love the bits about the cyclops' eye. (Squish.)

My former principal told me my biggest issue was to work on my confidence, to not criticize myself quite so much. I think, when it is me and the classroom, I don't feel so self-aware (sure, I blush when the kids ask me questions about my personal life). There is that obvious added layer of pressure when the principal comes in; I've never been good at taking criticism (bad thing for a writer) and am easily let down (bad bad thing for a writer). But I'm getting better. Every year, every time someone comes in to give me feedback, it gets a little easier.

And it certainly helps when you actually feel comfortable with the observer.

I think many things in my life have been lucky. One of those has been the principals at the schools where I have been hired. I've been witness to some fairly frustrated stories regarding other principals, and I actually like both I've had. But there's something about a good principal, one that is nakedly passionate about education and about your journey as an educator and how she can help you become a better teacher that makes a person ready to get behind that principal, ready to try harder. It's a good feeling when you know you are getting backed up in the classroom (which is a first, this year, actually), but also in your external life as well (even more so--dramatically more so at this school). I can't tell you how grateful I am for that.

1 comment:

Pherenike said...

Hi, I don't think Ive introduced myself yet, but i have been quietly dropping in on you every so often, reading the story of your life and appreciating your photos.

Teaching seems like such an undervalued occupation. I commend you, you sound like you would be a very thoughtful and encouraging teacher.

I've been tagged, so now i must tag seven others, so, you guessed it, one of them is you! TAG! Please share seven things about yourself, some random, some odd.