Tony Gurr

The Secret Diaries of Observees – Two Teachers Reflect…

In Classroom Teaching, Teacher Training on 15/04/2012 at 2:56 pm

Been a while since I did a post…been on the road a wee bit – my bad! But…we have had a few things on the go. This is one of those things…

We have banging on about allthingsobservation in recent weeks – and have been hooking up with friends as far away as Korea to do this. But, I’m going to come back to Eskişehirour “jewel” of the Turkish mid-west – for this one. Eskişehir has become something of a home-away-from-home for me this year (as those of you that get me tweets as I am racing along at 250 km/hr on our “hizlı tren” will know).

Love the place!

In fact, I still have plans to “kidnap” and “steal” Yılmaz Hocam (Büyükerşen) and bring him to Ankaradon’t tell them..!


On a recent trip there, I had a few hours to spare (hey, I’m “semi-retired” these days – need to keep myself “busy”)…and asked if any of the staff at Anadolu University there wanted me to drop in and “observe” a few classes – and, give them a bit of feedback.

Two very brave souls –  Çağdaş Gündoğdu and Aysun Güneş from AÜ-SFL – stepped up to the plate and asked if I could pop into one of their classes. Both Çağdas and Aysun are full-time classroom teachers and also work as HLUs (Heads of Learning Unit) at the school.

I say “brave” – not because they invited me to their classes, but because Aysun had never been observed (after almost 10 years as a teacher) and Çağdaş just couldn’t remember the last time he had had an “observer” in one of his classrooms!


We didn’t have time to run a “full” observation cycle but we exchanged a few ideas via e-mail before the “drop-in visit” and held a post-conference a few hours after each visit. I was so impressed by the way both of them responded to the whole process that I asked if I could “interview” them – you know, to get a meta-view of the whole process and see what they thought about classroom observation in a wider sense.

This is a record of our discussion – I have had to “edit” a few things so any errors or oversights are totally mine!

Ahh! I’d like to point out – yes, I know you want me to get on with it – that I am so proud of both of them and the kind of leadership they are demonstrating (by agreeing to do this type of “post”).

Guys (or “Guy” and “Gal” – I remembered, Aysun)

…you are both “stars” – THANK YOU! 


Why did you both volunteer to have an “observer” come into to your class?

Çağdaş: I volunteered because I believe that we need cooperation for progress…either personal or institutional…it’s a key issue. An observer is like a mirror for me…through which we can see a different reflection…of ourselves.

Aysun: Since I started teaching I’ve always wanted to reflect on my professional development and be more aware of my teaching. That’s why…also…I’m a people person, I like to interact with people and this observation was a good chance for me to get the necessary feedback about Aysun as a teacher. Also, I was sure that not being observed before was a real drawback for my teaching…{laughs}…Also I became definitely sure after seeing your face when I said no one had observed my lessons before!


How did you feel, say, an hour before the session? 

Aysun: Before the session I felt a little…tense…and tried to prepare some notes for myself…to use during the lesson. But then…I changed my mind and decided to be spontaneous. When I entered the classroom, all the black clouds scattered…because I was in one the safest places…for me…in my classroom. 

Çağdaş: I was excited…but not nervous. I knew myself and I felt ready for the session. Also, I was impatient to find out how another person…a professional…saw me in action in class.


What about the students – how did they respond, do you think?

Aysun: In the lesson…the students were really eager to learn. I mean…they were attentive and ready for any kind of input. Actually…because their level of English is quite good…they are usually attentive and eager in most lessons. they didn’t seem worried at all…maybe a bit protective…of me. This was great!

Çağdaş: The students looked more focused on the lesson than on the observer…this was a good sign. This showed me that I managed to involve them in the tasks…and they did not panic or get nervous…because I was calm, I think. Generally, the students were really positive and enthusiastic to learn.



What was it like as the “monster” sat at the back of the class – how was it after so long?

Çağdaş: Honestly, I forgot that I was being observed…as I went on with the lesson. So, I can say that I was not bothered by the presence of another professional in the classroom…really…really! 

Aysun: {laughs} …a monster sitting at the back was not irritating…or demotivating.  I believe…if such a monster keeps that quiet and does not interfere with the lesson…like you did {laughs}…the situation won’t be irritating for the other teachers, too.


How did the feedback session go? How was this different to what you expected?

Aysun: When it comes to the feedback session…I can honestly say that it went great. I got invaluable feedback on my teaching, time management, teacher-student interaction and my students’ performance. During the feedback session, the observer {laughs} asked me some questions and most of the time he encouraged me to talk…REFLECT! At first, I started talking about the negative aspects…but again he encouraged me to start with the positive ones…they are important, too. 

Çağdaş: The feedback session was mostly on my reflections upon the lesson. It helped me to evaluate myself…letting me admit my shortcomings and become aware of my strengths. The observer was also positive and encouraging while I was self-assessing.


How did you feel after the session?

Aysun: After the feedback session, I felt satisfied and more aware of myself in terms of my teaching. Actually…I learnt that I have good time management skills and good interaction with my students.  On the other hand…I learnt that I needed to be more patient after asking a question. I mean…I need to wait after the question and I shouldn’t storm in as much.

Çağdaş: Don’t laugh…but I felt like I was reborn {laughs himself}. I felt like I was all brushed up and…could see better into my teaching. I was so pleased that I knew I would like more of these opportunities…being observed…and asked to analyse myself and given feedback on my performance.



What did you learn about yourself, your teaching, your students?

Çağdaş: I learned…understood…that I was a good motivator and instructor. Also, I found out that I was a good story-teller. Moreover, I realized that I was concerned with students’ feelings as well as their class performance. Besides, I became aware that I did my best to stick to the time limit for the exercises. However, I was the dominant figure in the classroom and that I needed to give students more talking time and allow them to take more initiative during the activities. As for my students, I realized that they were ready to learn more if they were encouraged and motivated well enough.

Aysun: To me, after the feedback session I can say that I realised I’m a good teacher…well, at least one who tries to improve herself.  Being more aware of my teaching is like a blessing. I learnt that my teaching was not problematic…in the big picture way…and also…I was so pleased with the way my students are working…trying to learn. One more thing…I became definitely sure about the interaction between me and my students…and how important it is…because having bonds between students and teachers is one of the key elements…the core element of the ideal classroom…and learning, of course.



What are you planning to do next? How will you build on the session?

Aysun: After this observation, I decided to read more on the wider training issue… because we need to learn more to be more like professionals. By doing this…I believe that I will be a good example for my colleagues. 

Çağdaş: I will certainly limit teacher-talking time and let students discover more by themselves and teach them not to be afraid of making mistakes…I’ll also help them be more responsible…for their own learning in class as well.



What would you recommend to other teachers – after all this?

Çağdaş: Every teacher should experience observation…like this…and be open to co-operation with other colleagues and professionals…it’s just…about a more efficient type of professional development…more personal.

Aysun: I would definitely recommend my friends to let trainers observe their lessons.  Because we cannot really observe ourselves during a lesson…I mean…this observation thing works just as a mirror. After the observation…it would be much easier to see the problems. Also these observations will help the teachers build experience…and be more open to others’ ideas and thoughts. That’s the benefit…real benefit.



What would you recommend to observers? How could they help you and other teachers best – in the future?

Çağdaş: For me…it’s really important that observers are always empathetic and encouraging to teachers…before, during and after the sessions. It’s a whole process…a package.

Aysun: When it comes to the observer…she…or he should be a people person who can communicate and interact with people well. Also, during the observation the observer should behave like a  ghost…INVISIBLE almost…I mean, they should be there physically but shouldn’t interfere with things. If observers do this type of thing, they can be really helpful to others.

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