So if happened, finally. In the penultimate hour of my teaching week, after 7 previous teaching sessions across the week: I got observed.
And I’m not going to blog about it, or at least not about the lesson, anyway, because I can’t. Not because of some professional boundaries stuff, but because I can’t actually remember what happened. So much so, in fact, that I rather hope my observer will be able to tell me what happened.
Partly it was the psychological pressure. It’s hard, really hard, to keep the momentum of planning and teaching at that kind of level, which sort of makes me wonder what is so different about being observed that you feel a need to go above and beyond. Part of it, of course, is paperwork. For the lesson in question, for example, I had planned a lesson, of course, but hadn’t written it down on a formal lesson plan: by the end of my four days waiting, this was, quite frankly, a right royal pain in the backside. I’m not a fan of doing stuff for the sake of audit/observation at the best of times, and this was far from the best of times. I was using the five minute lesson plan, or a version of it, but by Thursday morning I was feeling so grouchy and resentful that my handwriting and attention to detail had deteriorated considerably.
There’s also the simple issue of physical tiredness: from Wednesday lunchtime through Wednesday evening and then Thursday until 3pm, it’s back to back lessons, with a brief spell for sleep and food. There wasn’t a lot of room there for writing out lesson plans, and normally I have enough time in between sessions to plan (small P). This rod, of course, I made for my own back: while my colleagues, apparently, were busting a gut over the weekend, I spent my weekend walking, cycling, watching movies, being with family and so on. Let me be clear as well: it’s not so much that there weren’t plans in place, just no Plans. I can’t do a week’s worth of lesson plans in advance: I always fiddle and adapt and add stuff up to the minute before the lesson, by which time I might as well have just done a lesson plan on the day. And if I don’t adjust it in any way I will think to myself “I don’t need to plan” then forget the plan itself. It’s worth nothing that the one memory I have of the lesson is never actually consulting the plan while teaching: planning, as the name suggests, is something I tend to do before the lesson, and once planned, the lesson just happens. Everything else just then slots into place. I keep a copy to hand, of course, but it is usually just in case, rather than actually being something I refer to in the lesson.
This isn’t, by the way, a pre-emptive set of excuses for a poor lesson. I am deeply unsympathetic to excuses of this sort, I’m afraid: an evaluative lesson observation is what it is and I’m lucky enough in the last few years to be observed by people who recognise this, and don’t use it as a proxy assessment for what you do over the whole course. This means that the feedback, for the most part, is for the learning in the lesson itself, and in this case, I think I’m probably OK, and if I’m not, then I know I can deal with that. Yes, I was weary, and somewhat manic by the beginning of that lesson, essentially running on caffeine, but that’s not an excuse. It might explain some of the more bonkers moments, perhaps, but if it was generally a bit shit, then that’s my problem not the system’s. I could have spent more time earlier in the week planning in advance. I could have been, no should have been, more organised so that when I spent time printing schemes and so on in the week before, I also planned the lessons. I could have chosen not to completely reorganise my scheme of work for my evening class so I could fit in a lesson around an interesting news item, and therefore not spent time planning those activities, writing questions and analysing language ready for teaching. I could have not changed my mind about the entire second half of the lesson on Thursday morning. I could have simply found a bunch of relevant pre-published resources and relied on those instead for most of my lessons, rather than spending my time writing resources (although I am rather pleased with what I made for my maths class, my beginners and my Level 1/2 evening class). There is a LOT I could have done differently to offset the tiredness, and it’s too easy, lazy, even, to want to lash out at something outside yourself.
Essentially, all I am saying is that I was tired, a bit overwrought, and quite frankly a little bit away with the fairies, and the most interesting thing to come out of the whole process so far is that I feel weirdly disconnected from the lesson, somehow. Me being so emotionally and mentally distanced from what happened in the lesson is an unusual, slightly discombobulating experience, and being particularly unable to articulate what went well and what didn’t is frankly weird. At some point I am required to write up some sort of reflection – and this is probably going to provide the biggest challenge of all, because I’m damned if I could tell you what happened in the lesson.
But there is a lot to be pleased about: don’t get me wrong. It might have been an arduous week, but I know the feedback is not going to lead to a grade with automatic consequences, for example, and that I am going to be able to discuss the lesson on a fairly equal footing with my observer, rather than waiting for the number and the associated misery. And I want this new ungraded system to work, really work because I know there are people who are sceptical about such things. I want to be right, and them to be wrong.
So I’ll be interested to hear the feedback. The feedback will be useful, and hey, who knows, I may be bloody fantastic when I’m slightly off my head on tiredness and caffeine. I doubt it, of course, but let’s wait and see.