May 22, 2021
The good news is that there are so many amazing learning experiences happening every day.
The bad news is that you’ll most likely never get to see them, or about 99.9% of them anyway. Like ever.
This has always bothered me.
So many missed opportunities to learn from each other, right?
One thing teachers need is firsthand access to… each other. They need to see examples of great lessons. They need to observe effective, instructional strategies on-the-spot. They need ample opportunities to see fellow educators in action.
After all, it might be challenging to talk about moving the learning forward together in a professional learning team (PLT) meeting if we’ve never actually seen each other teach, right? It’d be hard to thoroughly model science investigations to a teammate in a snapshot planning session, at least the way they really happen in the classroom or the lab. It’d be nearly inconceivable for a beginning teacher to learn and practice classroom management moves sight unseen.
There are literally thousands of educators teaching and learning the exact same standards, yet they’ve never seen each other teach. And not only have they never seen each other in action, they’re time on-the-clock to share ideas is usually limited. Their flexibility to collaborate on deeper levels may be obstructed by one vital barrier: access.
What’s Super Interesting?
Just typing this right now has my jaw dropping and my mind wondering: Are there any other occupations in which this is the norm, in which teammates doing the same work in the same time and neighboring spaces might not have unlimited access to each other? How would a company with these quality control, human resource practices survive? Better yet, how might they improve to stay cutting edge?
Please, don’t get me wrong. Efforts invested in the analog days were well-intentioned. There was a moment when we thought Pineapple Charts [might] Revolutionize Professional Learning. There was an era of ObserveME where isolation was no longer our only option. There were even role-reversal endeavors in which teachers did classroom walk-throughs in addition to administrators walking their rounds. They didn’t last.
One Reason Why Peer Observations Aren’t Successful
Plain. And. Simple.
There’s no one to cover classroom A while classroom A teacher observes classroom B teacher.
If you want to observe fellow teachers at your school or another while on-the-clock, you might have to take a personal day, create sub plans, and find a substitute teacher to cover your class to avoid scheduling conflicts.
At least that used to be the reason why peer observations rarely occurred. I mean, wasn’t that our pre-COVID mindset? Peer observations were done in person by being physically present in the classroom or learning space. Forever, observing fellow teachers meant all-things-synchronous.
So… What about post-COVID? What might our mindset be then?
In the next few years, I believe that peer observations will involve video recording, video sharing, and video playback in the modalities of all-things-asynchronous. And, I have to say, I can’t wait to see how this impacts our practices!
Post-COVID, don’t educators have the skill sets to leverage free technology to make teaching and learning better–more than ever?
My Bold Prediction
Five years from now, we’ll look back with the same jaw-dropping reaction, except this time, in disbelief that this was ever the way it was, or that it was ever considered to be the norm in a profession as sacred as education. Five years from now, educators will be sharing their learning experiences and lessons through video routinely as part of PLT or PLC meetings, teacher evaluation benchmarks, and overall portfolio processes.
Specials teachers are often called Singletons. One might argue that their content rarely overlaps. The art teacher and the PE teachers aren’t necessarily creating common formative assessments together, say, like a group of classroom math teachers might. So, why would specials teachers benefit from seeing each other teach?
Imagine a PLT meeting where one of the specialists brings a five-minute segment from one of their classes to share with our team. That will be the first five minutes I will ever get to see a teammate teach. Ever. This would be pretty cool to see. I mean, I’ve often wondered things like:
- How do my teammates begin and end each class?
- How do they interact with students?
- How do they bring everyone back to whole group?
- How do they address discipline concerns?
- How are they serving unique needs in their spaces?
I’m already getting excited to see…
How Microteaching Works
Something like this:
- Record a short (3-5 minute) segment of yourself teaching.
- View the segment together in a PLT meeting.
- Give and receive feedback to make teaching and learning better.
- Draw conclusions to move the learning forward, together.
Might this work on any PLT? So, even if our content doesn’t completely align, specials teachers can analyze things like classroom management, facilitator moves, and contextual circumstances that relate directly to Kid Talk. Therein lies even more value. Of course, it’s not just about watching a video and providing feedback on that segment. It’s about how those PLT discussions on microteaching segments improve practices over time. That’s the golden [exit] ticket.
I’ve been thinking about a few ways to organize the entire microteaching experience.
How To Multiply Microteaching Value
Flipgrid–What if each teammate uploaded their videos to a specific, grade level or departmental, Flipgrid topic? Here, teammates would be able to provide video or text feedback to that teammate’s video directly in Flipgrid. Not lost in here is also the opportunity to improve how we give and receive feedback with each other.
Now… Here’s where it gets really fun. What if that topic is just one of many topics… in one Flipgrid group… moderated by the school or administration? Might there be a TON of value in getting to see specific parts of lessons of every teacher in the school throughout the school year? How might that exponentially multiply our microteaching value?
Portfolio–Teachers record microteaching videos. Teachers post it their digital portfolios, coupled with deep reflections of what went well, what went wrong, and how this microteaching moments improved practices moving forward.
Now… Here’s where it gets really fun again. What if some of the microteaching segments doubled as evidence for teachers’ annual, professional growth plan? What if we could center staff-wide, professional learning on videos of each other? What if there was a microteaching moment or segment that would supplement (or eventually replace) the formal teacher evaluation process? This might transfer the ownership to the teachers as co-learners and co-constructors in their own journey.
Social Media–Some of my favorite social media posts are video clips from classrooms. It’s as if those thirty seconds were more valuable than a three-day conference four states away. Why? Because unless we’re sharing like this, I’ll never get to see you teach. I’ll never get to learn from you. We’ll never get to learn from each other.
Synchronous silos are no longer acceptable.
It’s time to move the learning forward.
1-Teachers Demonstrate Leadership, 2-Teachers Establish a Respectful Environment for a Diverse Population of Students, 3-Teachers Know the Content They Teach, 4-Teachers Facilitate Learning for Their Students, 5-Teachers Reflect on Their Practice, 6-Teachers Contribute to the Academic Success of Students, NCSSE 1-Strategic Leadership, NCSSE 2-Instructional Leadership