For all ESL teachers, observing other teachers and being observed are not uncommon parts of the job, especially for those who are at the early stages of teaching. Many novice and inexperienced teachers wouldn’t mind it; on the contrary, they appreciate the opportunity to observe more seasoned teachers.
But often experienced teachers resist the idea of observing other teachers. Perhaps they do not see enough value in the time spent observing to make it worth their while. However, I think observing other teachers’ classes is a very important part of professional development of experienced teachers.
In this blog post, I’d like to share my thoughts on why I think this notion should be challenged.
As seasoned teachers, when asked to observe a fellow teacher, we should see this as an opportunity to reflect on our own teaching methodology. Observing other teachers isn’t just about being inspired and gaining new ideas we can use in our own classroom. More often than not, it can also provide us with an opportunity to reflect on our own teaching.
I had this chance about a month ago when I got to observe an advanced class taught by a senior teacher. As an ESL teacher with over ten years of progressive experience, that week of observation refreshed my perspective on my own teaching. It helped me to reflect on my teaching beyond just the conventional aspects, such as how I can excel at my job through using new techniques and methods. It also helped me to think more about my personality as a teacher. To my surprise, some techniques and methods applied by my senior- teacher colleague didn’t sit well with me. This was mainly due to personality difference. What I mean is that he successfully pulled off a certain task through a specific method which was compatible with his own extroverted character. But if I were to do the exact same thing, I’m sure it would backfire because I know I can’t inject that level of enthusiasm in my classes as an introverted teacher.
Also, I noticed that the task was more appealing to those students with the same character as the teacher and those students who were the opposite couldn’t catch up with that particular task. This story clearly shows that if it weren’t for that observation opportunity, I wouldn’t have even thought about reflecting on that important issue, which was how my character and personality traits as a teacher helps the success of delivering a task in the classroom.
Another point which I’d like to mention is that after a long time of being in this industry, observation with the aim of reflecting on our own teaching might help us see our profession from a different perspective. The process of observing a colleague can help us to reflect more objectively on our own teaching journey. Maybe we can see things more clearly about the future of our job, especially if we are observing a senior teacher both professionally and age-wise! It can help us consider whether this is the job we would like to stick to for years to come! Or maybe we can better gauge what a student’s perception is of an older teacher, or a more extroverted teacher?
Reflecting on our teaching journey as ESL teachers, regardless of where we are on the journey, is a useful and even rewarding exercise that we can do for our own professional development and well being. Reflection can be a time-out through which we can gain a new perspective on our job, and observing classes can be a very practical way for us to do so.