Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 5 seconds
We know this already. We know, for a fact, that if someone other than our regular students enters our classroom, something shifts. In the way we behave, in the way our students behave. Something is different. It can result in something better or worse, right? We can be more nervous or anxious, and our students may be less comfortable, or more fidgety. Or we may perform better, or more energetically, trying to impress the others in the room. Our students may try harder, thinking if they don’t, their teacher would be harmed. Or something.
Last week, coincidentally, two people asked to observe me while teaching. One of them is a colleague at my center, observing the way I use the active learning pilot classroom I’m teaching in (she’s done this with me several times before and helps me brainstorm how to use the room – I’m used to having her there, but my students are not), and the other is a teacher in our rhetoric and composition program who wanted to see me co-develop rubrics with students, because I had mentioned it in a workshop on assessment recently. What I noticed is that I was more thoughtful than usual about how I co-construct rubrics with my students, because I was trying to model a good way of doing it for the other teacher. I think, as a faculty developer, it feels like I have more of a responsibility in my modeling, because if I’m showing others how to do it, I must be really good at it. It doesn’t fully make sense, because of course I teach my course, my content, my context, with my teaching philsophy, and no one else should feel obliged to do the same. But I personally enjoy watching others teach, and picking and choosing what I learn from observing them – what I like that I’d like to adapt, what I don’t like and should avoid doing, and so on. In any case, my point here is that when I was being observed, I think I performed better than my usual. I wasn’t nervous, but I was more mindful of everything I was doing. I was, like, observing myself better. I wonder if I’d generally teach better if I always had that in the back of my mind, or if it would drive me nuts? haha
I also started to think about how to make other teachers less nervous when I observe them. I tend to build relationships with faculty before I observe them, and rarely, if ever, go unless invited and I know I’m welcome. But you can still be welcome and make people nervous, right? I mean, I’m always nervous when people visit me at home, wondering if they’ll notice things that are wrong with my home or something. Yes, I’m always nervous about that. I assume that in a similar vein, faculty feel nervous when I’m observing them, even if they know I’m there to support and not judge and have no say in their hiring or promotion or such. I do think that over time, people can become more comfortable. If the same person observes them multiple times, they and the students get used to it and get comfortable with it. But you can’t know for sure when that day will come, and it’s difficult to make time to observe that regularly. So I’m still thinking about this.
I wonder what makes people more or less comfortable with an observation by a peer, other than their relationship with that person and the power/hierarchy involved?