The Professional Value in an Observational Classroom Visit
I was surfing around the internet last weekend watching different Ted Talks and came across a really good presentation on the value of a plant-based diet in making a positive difference to our health. At the very end of the video, the speaker referred to the fact that he was inspired by a friend to begin this type of diet and wanted to inspire others to do the same.
While he was speaking, a great 'inspire-be inspired' image was projected on the screen and it immediately made me think and reflect upon the fact that inspiration can be found so easily when we really take initiative to look for it. I began to doodle out my own 'inspire-be inspired' drawing that you see above with the intention of writing a blog about the idea. Nothing immediately came to me, but I set it aside for a few days knowing that something would come to me that I could blog about later.
What I learned today is that inspiration can come in many different forms and when you least expect it. My computer was giving me lots of trouble today and I had to go back and forth to the IT help center to fix the same problem that kept reoccurring. Anybody reading this blog post can attest to the fact that IT troubles can sure be very frustrating in nature. Having work to get done and with no computer, I decided that instead of pouting about my lap top not working, I would make much better use of my time by taking a walk around to a few different classrooms and observe colleague teachers in action.
Stop # 1: John Rinker's Classroom: PYP Design Technology
Play is the Highest Form of Research
John is our school's PYP design technology teacher and always has such a wonderful way with the students. When I went into John's room today he was teaching a kindergarten DT class. The students were busily working away with lego and John was down on the ground tinkering away alongside them.
I walked around the room taking a few pictures really looking at John's teaching space. I came across a poster that John had created by taking a photo of Einstein and mashing it up in his own way to create a visual that reflects his strong belief that 'Play is the Highest Form of Research'. It was the first time that I had seen this poster in his classroom and it immediately reminded me of the importance of giving students time to figure things out on their own. They are all so capable of learning on their own when allowed time to explore and play.
Although I feel as though I give them opportunities to do this in PE, it was a super thing to really reflect on the fact that purposeful play can serve such an important role in our programs. Seeing the visual that John had created was a gentle reminder to always remain open to this idea when instructing children.
Stop # 2: Marina Gijzen's Grade 4 Classroom
Marina Gijzen has over 25 years teaching experience and is somebody that I really respect. She is so full of great ideas and is very passionate about education. My wife and I are lucky to have her as our son's classroom teacher this year. I decided to pop in on Marina's class to check out what was going on in their unit of inquiry.
When I went into the classroom, the students were all seated on the floor, each one with a mini-whiteboard in their hands. They were working on writing summaries related to their unit and were sharing their ideas in various ways using their mini-whiteboards and markers.
I have known of these mini-whiteboards for ages and have come across them numerous times over the years, however, I began to think of different possibilities for using these mini-whiteboards in PE and what I could have the students do with them. Many ideas came racing to mind, in particular, the opportunities for students to create their own self-assessments using these boards. I thought that it would be great to allow students to create their own self-assessments in whatever area we were working on in PE. Once these self-assessments were created, I could easily take a picture of their work and file it away in a digital folder (Evernote??) to be used later when reporting on the unit. Reflections could also be done in this manner. Quick and easy to erase once a picture is taken of their work and a valuable recording of their thoughts related to what they are learning.
My take on the value of observational classroom visits
I am happy I took a negative experience today (computer malfunction) and turned it into a positive by observing some excellent classroom teachers in action. I believe that there is so much value in observing our colleagues as they teach. As PE teachers, we can and will learn so much if we take opportunities to go and observe in the classroom. We might walk away with new class management ideas, greater insight into questioning, more diverse ways to lead whole group discussions, or find something new and refreshing to try out in order to improve our teaching space. Whatever it may be, I assure you that it is worth the walk down the hall to be present and observe the learning of our students back in their own classroom environment.
If you haven’t tried it out, I challenge you to take time over the next couple of weeks to visit at least 3 of your colleague’s classrooms. Have your phone ready to take pictures and your journal ready to record whatever may leave you feeling inspired. As teachers, we all have the ability to be inspiring to others and this is what struck me today as I observed Marina and John in action. If you would like to share something that you learned from a classroom observational visit, let me know what it was and I would be glad to post it on my blog. Good luck and get busy observing folks!