Friday, October 19, 2007


I guess now I can officially call myself a teacher: I have been Observed.

Every school is different, but at my school, Observations are a Big Deal. I know this because all the advice I've been taking from other teachers has been like a pop quiz:

Veteran Teacher: "Do you have to do ______?"
Miss Brave: "Uhhhhhhh..."
Veteran Teacher, ominously: "Find out before you get Observed!"

Now, I am nothing if not thorough. So like any good geek, I had read the section of the UFT website called "Know Your Rights." And according to UFT rights, "The principal should tell you in advance that he or she will be formally observing you on a particular day." Of course, when I tentatively mentioned this to a fellow teacher, she rolled her eyes.

"Welcome to hell," she said.

Then she warned me that the principal would not crack a smile and that her presence would probably cause me to forget everything I'd ever learned about teaching.

Welcome to hell, indeed.

If you count the terrifying memo I found in my inbox mere weeks into the school year ("FYI new teachers -- Observations begin this week") as informing me in advance, then OK, I was informed. But what actually tipped me off were the rippling waves of tension around the school hallways: "They got J. last week"; "I think she was looking for M. this morning" -- as if the APs were like a roving death squad of assassins rather than administrators out to perform observations. Probationary teachers (with less than three years' experience) get four observations; tenured teachers get two. At my K-5 school, there are six classes on each grade level, some of which are team taught, and that doesn't even include clusters, ESL and AIS teachers for reading, writing and math, most of whom are probationary. So that's a whole lotta observing going on.

By Tuesday at lunch, I couldn't take it anymore, and I called my mom, crying that I just wanted to get it over with already. So of course, not even an hour later, my assistant principal showed up at my second grade CTT class.

Immediately I started dropping things. My mouth went dry. My brain spun into overdrive. I was saved by two things: Fortunately, I happened to be doing that blessed Noun Eater lesson, which the kids freakin' love; and because that class has so many extra support staffers in the room, the kids didn't get too out of hand. Because the period before, I saw my wild first graders, and I did a lesson with them on "multi-sensory writing" that involved reaching into a "mystery bag," which turned out to be an unholy disaster of an idea and if I'd been observed during that lesson, I probably would have been fired.

But as it turned out, it went OK. Phew. Until next time, that is.

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