Talking Shop

We’re “in-service” at school today . . .

This means that students are at home or traveling and teachers are spending time on a variety of activities mainly characterized as getting things done or thinking about, interrogating even, how we get things done.

We started the day “talking shop” in teams. All teachers in the school had previously observed a colleague, been observed by a colleague, or recorded themselves teaching and then watched the recording. The discussion was meant to serve as a debrief — what did you learn? — and a spur to share ideas and solutions.

We used these questions to jumpstart the discussions (though these particular discussions never require much prompting)…

  1. What observation mode did you choose (e.g., observe, be observed, seek feedback, record your lesson) and what were you looking for?
  2. What did you learn from your observation experience?  
  3. How did your choice of observation mode influence what you learned?  Do you think you will use the same mode next year–why or why not?
  4. What adjustment will you make to your instruction as a result of your observation experience?

My personal takeaways — things I will act on immediately — from the group conversation were as follows:

  • I learned that some teachers begin classes with a mental refresh, akin to meditation. (I’d like to build that into my teaching routine.)
  • I learned that a good way to wrap up a student-led discussion is to assign and position “fish bowl observers” at the start of the discussion. Their job is to listen carefully to the discussion, take notes, and then summarize the key discussion strands at the end of the discussion.

For school people, the above template should be easy to follow and (if you wish) apply. I know that some readers of this blog do not work in schools, however. I’m still hopeful that the process and outcomes described above may be useful to you. What opportunities exist for you to observe others or be observed? What aspects of your job are even observable? Would it be possible or useful to occasionally begin your workday by talking shop, by thinking about, interrogating even, how you get things done?

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