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Rich Henderson's Diary
The First 180 Days

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Rich Henderson, a lawyer, always dreamed of being a teacher. Last year, he gave up his law career and returned to the classroom to earn his teaching certification. This year, his dream finally comes true in a fifth-grade classroom in suburban Woodbury, Connecticut. Each week during this school year -- Rich's first year in the classroom -- he will share with Education World readers his thoughts and feelings about his first 180 days!

Rich's Diary: First Teacher Observation

Week 10

Have you ever had the feeling that you were being watched -- that someone was watching you closely, analyzing your every move, and scrutinizing everything you said?

Sounds scary, doesn't it? Well, it is scary, and such a scenario occurs frequently within the confines of classrooms. What is this scary situation? It is the dreaded teacher observation. This week, I had my first observation as a new teacher.

Who likes to be criticized? Not many of us look forward to receiving criticism for the way we wash the dishes or the manner in which we perform in our professions. In any situation, criticism is a difficult thing to hear and it is something that most of us would rather avoid if possible.

Within the teaching profession, principals, mentors, and other educators use observation as one of the ways in which to assess teacher performance. They analyze classroom performance in detail based upon a set of standards called teacher competencies.

During this past week, my principal observed me teaching a math class. Was I nervous? Absolutely. When you have someone watching what you do, listening to what you say, and analyzing your interaction with the students, a feeling of nervousness is expected.

However, as the lesson began, my nervousness quickly subsided as I focused more on the lesson than on the observation. Although I knew that my principal was critiquing me, I was more interested in conveying the information of the lesson to my students. By focusing on my students rather than on myself, I was able to relax and simply teach. Before I knew it, the observation was over. I think it went well.

Could I have done things better? Yes. Did I do some things well? I think so. The value of teacher observations lies within those self-evaluative questions. The process provides an opportunity for me to learn from other members of the teaching profession who have more experience and wisdom than I. It gives me a chance to improve upon my abilities as a teacher.

I don't look forward to criticism, but at least I know that it will make me a better teacher. So, Jon, please go easy on me.

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Rich Henderson
Education World®
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11/02/2000