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Thursday, April 12, 2012

So, I like you, just not when you're visiting my class

Like Ginger, Monday's check-in conversation struck me in a few different ways. During my conversation with Bill on Tuesday, we discussed it and explored ideas around its emergence. For me, the hypothetical notion of faculty visiting my classes sounded wonderful. "Please, come in, sit down, and enjoy the wonders of my rich learning environment." said to me, in my head with some sense of delusion. When reality arrived and I received my first faculty email requesting a visit, that ball of acid exploded in my stomach before I finished reading the one sentence request. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? How did I go from some degree of excitement and interest to fear and dread?

So, I pondered where my feelings stemmed from and what I want to do about it. It partly stems from past evaluations from my dept. According to the two or three dept faculty visits that they have sat in on in my ten years, my teaching gets evaluated more negatively than positively. So, there sits my nervousness about faculty visiting. I'll be negatively evaluated. Self-conscious, insecure, lacking clarity, just plain bad. If I stay there, then I stay stuck. How do I improve as a teacher? I've been exploring where my strengths and weaknesses lie as a means to provide clarity for myself. I try different approaches. I'm not afraid to try different activities in class. Some of what it boils down to is that I have lots of creative ideas floating around in my head. I think about them, ponder them, even talk about them sometimes. My problem comes from clearly thinking through what my learning objectives are, writing them down, and being clear with the students. Don't get me wrong, I write down requirements for assignments, but I presuppose students can read my mind. I also presuppose that students read what I've written down.

Back to the faculty visiting, I'm afraid that they will evaluate me negatively. With the possibility of criticism and negative evaluation comes fear of exclusion. That makes it challenging for me to keep my classroom door open for all to see. I don't want to be "found out". My secret: the faculty will think that I'm incompetent and stupid. Ouch, that is painful. Maybe they think that without visiting my classroom in the first place, or they don't think that way at all. It's a challenge to explore the possibility of it-making yourself vulnerable to evaluation. And then I just realized, the faculty aren't visiting to evaluate me, in that good-bad sense. Their visit serves a very different purpose. Perhaps the purpose focuses more on process and inclusion and collaboration. That completely changes the frame and focus of the visits for me. Hum, now, I have to think more about this possibility . . .

1 comment:

  1. Hi nina, thank you for your authentic expose' of what we probably all are thinking. I am struck by what appears to be the antagonistic nature of visits to classrooms that we have apparently all experienced.

    For my part, I really enjoyed both visits to your classes, particularly seeing your generosity with the students, the attention that you give each person around their speeches. Geeze, it was a little like watching a good episode of project runway...positive feedback, doled out lovingly.