Observation Day

Yesterday, I went to school for my first class which doesn’t start until second period. I entered the class and my weakest co-teacher was yelling at the kids ‘teaching’ them how to say in response to Hello. How are you?, “I am fine. Thank you very much!”  I was in a pretty good mood, and decided to help them practice. “Hello! How are you?”  I asked. They all chorused the response.

I wondered why there where no kids in the halls and she had already started teaching…. Apparently, I had the schedule memorized incorrectly. 2nd period started at 9:50 not 10. Opps.

She then informs me that we will be observed by TLG on the very next day and we needed to prepare.  … Okay. She then hands me a script and says this is what we will do and we will use these students. I was confused.

She said, we have this class tomorrow first period so we are going to practice now to prepare. “But how are we going to have a lesson with them tomorrow if we have them now?” Then things started to make sense. First: I was in the wrong class. I was supposed to be with another teacher downstairs. But THIS teacher switched her schedule so as she could practice with the students, practice EVERYTHING from the greeting to the readings to the questions to the responses. She even had prepared which students she wanted to have read and answer the questions.

I was stunned and shocked. Then she asked me “Was it a good lesson?” I answered as tactfully as possible that, ‘sure it’s a fine lesson, but we are better than that. Let’s do something new!’ She responded with, “Yes. This is a new lesson.” (Her comprehension of English isn’t that great.) But it wasn’t a new lesson. Not only were we practicing it, we had finished this very lesson last week.

I felt that there was nothing I could do. She didn’t understand what I was asking to do. And she felt an overwhelming pressure from the culture of the educational system here in Georgia, ‘the machine’, to be a perfect teacher, to have the perfect students make perfect responses and to have everything go exactly according to plan. And the best way to do this was to put on a well-rehearsed play. The eerie thing is I am sure that this is their go to procedure for ‘observations. All I could do was to go along with the plan and do my part.

They don’t understand TLG’s intent. I wholeheartedly support the program that I signed up for. It is a young program fumbling it’s way in the right direction. Sure it makes mistakes and there are cultural mishaps that occur because things get tangled or lost in translation. But overall, their goal it solid. It can not be denied that they are progressive and forward thinking.

With that said, the fears of the old way of teaching, i.e. getting fired for students not knowing material, is an unfounded fear. They were observing me. Not the students or co-teacher. They don’t mind if that students don’t know the information. As a matter of fact, the students are NOT supposed to know the information. We are supposed to teach them.

But expressing that to my co teachers is an uphill battle.

That episode put me in a bad mood, and things continued to get worse. All of the worst habits of the teachers manifested themselves on that day.

They ask the students questions, but talk over them and interrupt them as they try to answer.

They pronounce the words that the student is reading before and louder than the student. The student can not hear themselves. And often times the pace of the teacher ‘helping’ the student is so fast it pushes them to just mumble the words instead of practice pronouncing them correctly.

They teach to the strongest students. In one class, it happened the strongest students were on one side of the classroom. So when the teacher asked them to identify items from a book she was holding, the students behind her couldn’t see. An eager student behind her took the initiative to stand up and peer over other students to see and perhaps answer the question, too.  She was yelled at for standing up.

All those things put me in the worst mood.

I needed to dance. Fortunately I had practice that night.

***

Observation Day

I came to school a little earlier in case the TLG observers wanted to speak to me before. I was bummed about the rouse we were about to play and just felt defeated. But seeing how anxious the other staff were made me sympathetic. The main teacher of the class was wiping down desks, the principal and head English teacher were coaching the English teacher who was to be with me. The parents were grooming their children. It was a total group effort.

The starting bell rang.

No TLG observers. This put them in a mild panic. They started asking me where they were. “I don’t know!”  But secretly I was a little glad. Let’s start the lesson! Which we did after a little while.

Now this meant I would be observed in one of the other two classes. Most probably with the teacher who has the biggest heart, but the least confidence. (Hopefully not the third class of the day. That class would have caused TLG to eject me from the country immediately, fire the co teacher and burn the school to the ground.)  And sure enough, that teacher comes rushing in lamenting and beside herself. She was in a flat out panic.

“It will be okay, I told her. Just let me handle it.”

The period ended. And off I went to the second class, with my spirit buoyed. This is what true observations consist of; reality.

I went into the classroom and the students were sitting perfectly as the teacher was about to faint. I went over the soothed her and told her all will be well. She briefly told me what she had planned. Then the bell rang.

The observer walked in with the principal, introduced herself and sat in the back.

I took the lead with the lesson and as my co teacher became less and less nervous, she chimed in. It was a great lesson!  I was so proud of the kids and my co teacher!

Afterwards, I was also proud of my principal and staff. They laid out the red  carpet for our guests. Coffee, cakes, etc.

Another observer came in and joined us later. She had been talking with my host family. She reported that all was well.

It was a good day.

***

“I might be too strung out on compliments
Overdose on confidence
Started not to give a fuck and stopped fearing the consequence
Drinking every night because we drink to my accomplishments
Faded way too long I’m floating in and out of consciousness
And they sayin’ I’m back, I’d agree with that
I just take my time with all this shit, I still believe in that
I had someone tell me I fell off, ooh I needed that
And they wanna see me pick back up, well where’d I leave it at?”

Headlines, Drake

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