Monday, June 17, 2013

Wherein the author completely choked during her observation....

Oh, hi!

So it's been a tough year for me. Lots of difficulties in the first months of school with challenging student behaviors, and after I did a lot of hard work to sort that out, I found that the relentless drive for data and all that implies to be kind of soul crushing. So soul crushing, in fact, that my formal observation  in May did not go very well. At all.

You might be asking yourself now why my formal observation was in May. I dunno either. My guess is that the administration at my D75 school had a difficult time getting to it because of the aforementioned soul crushing relentless data. They have a lot of work to to do, too.

So, the administrators at the school I work at usually don't announce or make appointments to do formal observations - which they are "allowed" to do, I'm told. And they really do want to see an average lesson, and that's all fine and good. Now, because I work with kids who have severe cognitive disabilities, we need to do a lot of practice and repeating of tasks, and have a pretty structured routine. I handle that by making 4 or 5 general lesson plans for the month and vary the task but not necessarily the skill in order to help the students transfer and access their learning in different "modalities."  And I leave some stuff open, and have a couple of quick - go to things just in case.

Usually that works, and when it was announced that the teachers would be observed sometime the first week of February, I enhanced the plans more. And I utilized the Unique Learning Systems "curriculum" because, well... I have to. But still used the month format because it worked for me, the paras, the kids and lesson plans are sort of sacrosanct.

So I was not observed that week, nor was I for the next 9 or 10 weeks. I kept my regular plans, yet did not enhance them. So, we'll forward to a rainy Thursday in mid May wherein the author oversleeps because it's so dark, has to clean up a cat hairball and can't find the keys, then misses the bus by a second  and since its raining the next bus is late and when I get to school 3 minutes late the kids are cranky and off - well, we've all had those days, haven't we?

So imagine my dismay when I hear that the principal is there to do observations and I got about 10 minutes notice. Already anxious and flustered, I go to do the normal activity ...and it's a dud. And I realize this within the first few minutes and just mind was a blank and I didn't / wasn't able to regroup. Is it here that I should mention that I subsequently learned my chills and malaise and horrifying cough was attributed to a raging case of bronchitis a few days later?

It did not go well. And I own what I own about that: my lesson was wanting in a number of ways, and I literally (bronchial cough) and figuratively choked. It did not help that the observer was touching her iPad the entire time and i was PISSED that she was Danilesoning me. NOT allowed this year.

So I get the feedback and it's all Danielson rubric-y. Now, i own what I own about that dud lesson. But I found some of the other things, frankly shocking. That I don't have a clear behavior plan for the class - I've got color coded rules and a big deal sticker chart and made a big thing about asking kids about their reinforcers at the end of class - but seriously, the observer was furiously punching her iPad at the time. That hit home, especially. This observer has always assigned student teachers to me because, she says, my classroom management skills are good and are what first year teachers really need to know. . So for her to rate that component "developing" was hard for me - and even more perplexing was that of the few "effective" sub-domains was "students are well behaved and take pride in their work." As disjointed as my lesson was that day, so was the evaluation of it.

I feel like I have always done a good job working with students with developmental disabilities, and I've enjoyed a decent reputation among my colleagues and administrators the last few years. It's my 6th year teaching, and i'm in my late 30s - there are many things I need to and would like to learn - but I'm wondering more and more if the people who are evaluating me and my kids even know what they're looking for.