Updated: Mar 16, 2020
Have you ever had an "observation" that did the following: touched your heart, lifted your spirits and mental health, inspired you to risk and try new things and helped you see yourself and your teaching in a positive light? I hope you've had many such experiences. How did it impact you personally and professionally?
"I believe that for our students to thrive our TEACHERS MUST THRIVE." ~Laura Gilchrist
I'm Laura Gilchrist. After teaching for twenty years and instructional coaching for three, I now coach teachers and administrators across multiple districts in blended learning and blended leadership. I help teachers, schools and industry design for partnerships, specifically Family-School-Community Partnerships.
My Journey With Teacher Observations and Evaluations
My teacher observations (evaluations), which spanned 20 years from1995-2015, while generally positive, did not inspire me or help me deepen and expand my skills as an experiential learning designer for my students. My typical teacher observations graded me in a clinical kind of way. The evaluation process as I experienced it was a necessary evil -- done to me, not with me -- and if you asked me, not for me. Let it be known, I cast no shame or blame in education because a) we're all enmeshed in this system and b) we shall not waste time finger pointing when we can collaborate and design a new future together! My overall evaluation experiences were the result of a top-down checklist process started many, many years ago which has continued on over time across the U.S. The system itself makes it difficult for principals to do the kind of instructional leadership that uplifts teachers, and as a result, our kids.
The Most Beautiful Teacher Observation of my Career
There was ONE "observation" I remember clearly and vividly, which to this day triggers a wonderful release of happy chemicals in my mind and body. That observation was in1999. It impacted me so deeply that I'm writing a blogpost about it in 2020 and it directs my blended learning coaching today with all my teachers across the districts in which I coach.
Meet Beth Wood, a teacher champion and a hero of mine! Beth sat in my classroom in 1999 at New Mark Middle School and positively impacted my mindset, my self-identity, my mental health and happiness and my practice as a teacher. Beth Wood, now an MTSS and Response to Intervention Coach and Consultant, was a member of the North Kansas City District Academic and Behavioral Teacher Support Team. Dr. Tom Cummings was the Superintendent at the time.
I remember a few things clearly. After she sat down in the classroom, mind you, she paid close attention to me and to the kids. She was "present" in the energy flow of the lesson, actively looking for the GOOD, for what I did that positively impacted kids. I felt at ease with her in my room after a short time because she showed me, through her body language and smile she wanted to be there.
This is what Beth handed me at the end of the hour. ❤️
This 2-page feedback form that felt more like a handwritten note straight to my heart. I wasn't prepared for what she handed me because I'd never seen anything like it. In that note she said beautiful things. I remember sitting in my chair later in the day, reading it over and over because that was the first time in 4 years I'd been SEEN and acknowledged for the many little things I do. There was no grading me on a rubric. She saw me, she saw my teacher heart, she saw the beauty in my kids and in the learning experience I'd designed and launched that day. It may seem ridiculous, but I felt joy, a lightness and happiness that day from Beth's strengths-based approach and personal touch.
There's one more thing you should know. Beth came up to me after class and handed the two pages to me personally. You can probably guess what happened next. She took a minute or two and shared her insights about me with me -- personalized, caring and nurturing. The rest is history.
Beth built relational trust with me in my classroom. I felt a close bond to her that lasts to this day. She deeply impacted my practice and mental health -- without grading me and without a rubric. It was her words, her caring, her non-judgment. She believed in me and showed me a new way to see myself. And that's exactly what I needed personally and professionally.
Impact on my teacher coaching today
GRATITUDE: I want to credit and thank you, Beth Wood, for the capacity-building you did for me through an observation. I coach the way I do because of you. Much love.
🚀Teacher Voice: Share Your Story and a Shoutout!🚀
Share in the comments below and/or on my channel on EdSpace.live.
Your Story: Describe the most beautiful, wonderful or positive observation experience of your career? How did it impact you personally and professionally?
Share the Love: Give a gratitude shout-out to a principal or teacher who coaches you up and impacts your teaching and mental health.