The Value of Observed Teaching Practice for ESL Teachers
2018-12-05 Linda Dunsmore Alumni Experiences
This is an interesting article written by one of our TEFL alumni who shares her thoughts on the importance of observed teaching practice for ESL teachers.
This post was written by our ITTT graduate Roxanne L.
When I think of having my teaching observed either by an inspector or by a teacher-in-training, I think of the Christmas song, which impels its listeners, “He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!” The reason is simple, when we know we are being scrutinized, we do a better job! In reality, students observe their teachers every day, and even without expertise in the field of education, students know implicitly a good teacher from a bad teacher. Still, having your teaching (or teaching practice) observed by fellow teachers, teaching coaches, inspectors or administrators can be valuable, not just because teachers will do a better job during the evaluation, but also because the feedback which the observer gives will be tremendously insightful and beneficial for the teacher’s professional development.
Though it was very nerve-wracking, my first experience with observed teaching was not during a practice lesson; I had been hired to fill a sudden vacancy in an international school in Asia. I was not, and still am not, a trained teacher, having received my B.A. in Graphic Design with a minor in Mathematics. Yet, I found myself teaching an energetic group of 24 ESL students as their Grade One teacher. No doubt, I was hired for my native English abilities and willingness alone.
Never the less, there I was, in front of a bustling class of 6-year olds and the Director of the School was in the back of the room observing my lesson! The teaching point was about reading directions. I was so nervous, I hurried through the explanation and handed out a worksheet and bolted around the room ensuring that all the students stayed on task. Thankfully, the Director was a gracious man and an experienced teacher. He didn’t chide me for the fact that the teaching point was way too hard for 6-year old ESL students. He didn’t tear me apart for not including differentiation. He just praised me for my energy and suggested that I talk a little more slowly for the children. It was a very basic correction, but it opened my eyes to see myself from the students’ point of view. It gave me a goal to work towards.
The school as a whole began to give teachers a chance to go into other teacher’s classrooms and learn from each other. Now as an observer, I could really absorb ideas on how to manage behavior, engage students, pace lessons and much more. In fact, if I hadn’t had opportunities to observe my peers “getting it right” and “getting it wrong” I don’t know how I would have made it through my first year of full-time teaching. Therefore, I am a big proponent of having my lessons observed and getting the privilege of observing other teacher’s lessons.
Have you ever heard the maxim, “The highest form of flattery is imitation?” When it comes to teaching, we can pay no higher compliment than to imitate the best practices of those we have observed teaching. Yet, how will be able to imitate their best practices if we don’t get to observe other teachers practicing? At best, we can reach back into our memories of elementary, high school and university teachers who inspired us. But until we try to teach for ourselves, the specifics on what made a good teacher stand out will probably have been lost on us. That is why it is so important to be an observer of other teachers—our peers.
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In conclusion, I believe that being observed and observing other teachers is highly valuable for professional development. When teachers grow through feedback (both corrections and praise) after observed lessons the students will ultimately benefit, and the quality of teaching and learning will be good, for goodness sake!
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