Being observed and observing your peers. (e.g. Pros and cons).
How was observing classes beneficial for my own teaching?
Diary submitted by Gabriella A, Erasmus+ internship in Valencia
A major part of my teaching experience was definitely observing other teachers in the classroom. In retrospect, I can affirm that I learnt a great deal through the observation of my peers. It enabled me to grasp the basics of teaching, to be inspired by a model, to understand the dynamics between the teacher and the students and to develop enough confidence to teach myself. I thus believe that observing teachers is paramount to becoming an efficient teacher (link 1). Another less obvious benefit that I acquired through observation was the comprehension of how students work too. Indeed, by observing the classroom as a whole, I could understand what learning methods best suited them, what they preferred, what their main struggles were, etc. In this reflective diary, I shall therefore develop how observing classes was beneficial for my own teaching.
In order to get the most out of observing your peer, it is essential to follow a few set of stages: starting by familiarising yourself with the class material, getting some knowledge on the students by looking through their files, pre-establishing with your peer the most convenient seating arrangement, taking notes when observing and then reflecting on them, and finally seeking more training on particular aspects. For each lesson, I followed this guideline which enabled me to really learn a lot about the essentials of teaching. Furthermore, when having no experience with teaching like myself, I believe that it is paramount to begin with a time of observation. Personally, it provided me with a model of inspiration whom I could copy when it came to teaching myself.
Moreover, through my teaching experience, I also had the opportunity to observe more than one teacher. I think that this was hugely beneficial as it gave me access to an array of teaching styles, methods and approaches. Not only did this experience enable me to further understand teaching in general but it also gave me the confidence to teach myself. Indeed, I consider that through observing different teaching techniques, I became confident enough to embrace my uniqueness as a person and use this to my very best in the classroom. For instance, a way of doing this could be by sharing anecdotes of your own personal experience in relevance with the class topic (link 2). I would often do this when teaching to make the students’ learning experience more interesting and memorable. A particularly successful moment was during a speaking class on the topic of English authors when one of the students mentioned the famous author J.K Rowling. I then shared with the class that this particular author had studied at the same University as myself and that different aspects of my University had inspired her to write about Harry Potter, such as the moving staircase, Diagonal Alley, etc. My students seemed to find this very interesting and I noticed that from that moment forth they were even more captivated by the lesson.
Furthermore, by observing classes, I was also able to examine students and grasp several of their behavioural patterns. It enabled me to comprehend what they liked learning, what they were less comfortable with, the teaching methods they preferred, etc. For instance, I managed to get a good understanding of their rapport with the use of the white board. I noticed that they would get distracted and were less focused if the teacher wrote a lot on the board but that they also liked a few things to be written down. Finding the balance between these two aspects could be tricky at times but having prior observation to teaching myself indubitably helped. I essentially understood that the board was necessary to write new vocabulary and expressions down but that for general explanations it was better to begin by explaining with my own words and spoken examples.
To conclude, observing my peer before entering the stage of teaching myself was extremely helpful. This experience gave me insight into the very basics of teaching, the dynamics between the teacher and students, and the students themselves. It also enabled me to find the balance between being inspired by the teacher and copying their teaching approach as well as embracing my uniqueness and using that to create my own teaching style. Overall, I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to observe and believe that it largely helped me with teaching.