Go Observe – Leave Your Island For the Beach

We all know that teachers are amazing!  Teachers have amazing ideas.  Teachers work miracles with such little resources. Wait, you don’t know that?  Why not?  I am going to guess it is probably because you are teaching your children inside your classroom walls with little time to even be able to care what anyone else is doing in their classroom. I get it. Time is always at the heart of frustration in education.

Let me just say one thing, YOU ARE MISSING OUT!

We are truly missing out on the best opportunities for teacher AND student growth if we are not observing other teachers.  Unless teachers are provided opportunities to observe other teachers, we miss out on the most valuable resources we have out there – each other.

Here is a great article from Education World that explains the importance of this.

As I read articles and tweets about the value of observing teachers, I am reminded of how great we have it in Grapevine-Colleyville ISD!  Here are two things that place teacher observation/feedback high up there.


This is the summary taken straight from our GCISD website
“The Vanguard Association of Learning, Observation, and Reflection is a group of innovative, growth-minded teachers striving to reach new heights as educators as they work collaboratively to advance the achievement of their students through observation, reflection and scholarship.”

I am so fortunate to be part of this group. The innovative thinking and collaboration that happens here is phenomenal. I will have to say the best part is the reflection process that happens. Prior to us coming to observe the teacher has created a list of things he/she wants us to give feedback on. After the lesson, not only do WE reflect, but our observations are given to the teacher and HE/SHE reflects on the lesson and our feedback with an instructional coach. This is where change happens! It’s very self-reflective. It’s fun to see high school teachers and elementary teachers finding common grounds and learning strategies that both can use!

What makes this work: Building relationships! Before the year starts, our group invests time building relationships so that trust is established and we can truly reflect on our teaching without being defensive or getting our feelings hurt. I am very thankful for leaders who realize this trust must be established first.

My principal has combined this concept with learning walks to our campus level. They are called Tiger Walks because our campus mascot is a tiger. 🙂 The entire faculty creates a Personalized Learning Plan. We focus on district goals, campus goals, and individual goals. We choose one of our individual goals we are working on and create a Look Fors document that is put into a QR code. These QR codes are outside of our classroom doors. When a staff member comes in they scan the code to see what that teacher would like for them to be observing. A Google Doc pops up and the observer checks off what they see. Not what they infer may have happened right before they got there, but what they see right then.

Intimidating?! Think again. As a staff, we all know there is no way that one person will have all things in a lesson every time. These are brief and the data is over time. We look at this data on our own to reflect and have conversations to make sure we are meeting our personal goals.

Once again, the power of building relationships of trust and growing together remains at the heart of these to make them successful.

It is not like Twitter where you share thoughts, stories, and ideas with other people and “favorite” these to try later. Observations that are intentional create a more vulnerable experience. The feedback given is so specific that it makes all the “butterflies” worth it! Once you try it, you will not want to stop!  There is some major power in teachers watching other teachers not to critique, evaluate, or judge. The power is revealed in the changes that come from this other set of eyes providing SMART feedback on a specific desired behavior.

One of my favorite quotes to remember!
Are you uncomfortable?  If not, take the first step and ask someone to watch you in an area where you want advice or help. Ask them to come observe a lesson you are working on. Ask to go observe someone else in an area you feel you need to grow.  I promise others will love to do this, and it will change your teaching!  
Teachers are true heroes and have amazing ideas.  We are crazy if we think that each teacher calls kids to the carpet for circle up the same way.  Imagine what you can learn in a 10-minute learning walk or observation that might change your whole world!  You might just find the answer to something you have been struggling to make work in your classroom!!  

Let’s view our profession as more of a public beach, not an isolated island.

Author: Bridget Visser

I am a passionate educator advocating for ALL Children! Love all things around Student Voice, Literacy, Technology, Innovation, Student Design, and Empowering Others in positive ways! I am a learner, energized by connecting with other educators sharing their learning!

2 thoughts on “Go Observe – Leave Your Island For the Beach”

  1. Thanks, Phillip! Thanks for being the fierce leader and creator of VALOR, and a HUGE reason it is so awesome! Your comfort with being uncomfortable inspires me so much! 🙂

Comments are closed.