This week is the dreaded observations week in the English and Maths department. Everyone hates observation week. Here’s why.
1. It’s so stressful! We find out on Monday morning that we will be observed at some point during the following week. This means we are in a state of anxiety for at least a week and possibly two weeks. I teach about twenty lessons a week and I could be observed in any of them. My anxiety levels rise just before the start of each lesson and then I relax again when it becomes clear that it won’t be this lesson.
2. It literally gives me nightmares; a few nights ago I dreamt I was in a huge open plan classroom with teachers and students all over the room, tucked away in corners and behind curtains, and I didn’t know who I was supposed to be teaching or what I was supposed to be teaching them.
3. It’s so subjective. We don’t know who is going to observe us until they turn up at the classroom door. It could be a subject leader or head of department from any department in the college. Although in theory they are all using the same criteria, there is bound to be subjectivity. Will they even know what an outstanding maths lesson looks like?
4. The outcome affects our pay. If I don’t get a grade 1 or 2, I won’t go up a point on the pay scale this year. That seems unfair when I might be observed with a lovely, compliant, enthusiastic class or it might be a group of unruly reluctant learners. (Thankfully I taught my big group of boisterous rugby boys today and I wasn’t observed!)
5. It wastes so much paper. Normally my lesson plans are kept digitally, but in observation week they must be printed out to give to the observer along with a scheme of work, class profiles and other paperwork.
6. It wastes so much time. Teachers spend hours writing lesson plans in minute detail, remembering to indicate where they have embedded English, maths, Equality & Diversity and now also British Values.
7. It does nothing to improve learning or teaching. Even a bad teacher can pull it out of the bag for one week and then go back to teaching badly the following week. And good teachers teach well whether or not they are observed once a year. There are better ways of improving teaching than stressing teachers out for a week.
So wish me luck. It is Tuesday evening now and I haven’t been observed yet but it will happen at some point over the next three days.