Monday, January 07, 2008

O is for Observing

I have been thinking lately about the fact that, in my teaching, I have always been much more of a participant than an observer. Over the years of my career, I have usually jumped headfirst into whatever lesson I was planning or teaching. I have submerged myself fairly completely in my work, holding nothing back, rarely standing back and watching but, instead, plunging in and just swimming for all I’m worth. I've been much more a doer than a watcher. There are obviously some advantages to that approach to teaching, but, unfortunately, there are just as many disadvantages. For one thing, that kind of teaching makes it almost impossible to have any kind of objectivity -- any kind of 'big picture' view of what's happening in my classroom. If I'm always totally 'caught up' in the teaching and learning, who is going to be free to do the objective observations that will tell me whether I'm accomplishing anything significant? Who will dispassionately examine where my students and I have been and where we need to go? I wonder if it would be possible to be both a participant and an observer, both an active doer and a silent watcher. I love getting thoroughly involved with the adventures inherent in teaching English to teenagers, but I would also love to stand back -- sometimes way back -- and just analytically observe this old teacher and his youthful students. Perhaps I could do both at the same time -- both plunge in and stand on the shore. That would be the ideal way to teach. I could have the pleasure of doing the teaching and learning, and also the pleasure of watching it all unfold. I wonder if it's possible.

No comments: