Oops I did it again.
Last year I was observed four times by my principal and assistant principal. In NYC we get to choose from a small menu of options outlining when and how we can be officially observed. My administration suggested that we choose three informal and one formal observation. For the informals they can come in at any time and stay for about 15 minutes. For the formal, you know when they’re coming and you meet with them before the observation to review the lesson you are going to teach. Observations have always been a thing but, before Charlotte Danielson came into our lives, months and months (and sometimes an entire school year) could go by without an admin stepping foot in your room. Those days are over. And that’s OK. We all want to get better at what we do, right? If used properly, these observations to be a really powerful tool to improve practice. At least that’s what I tell myself every time they walk in the room.
So, last year my principal came in for my first observation in my new school. I am fairly confidant in the classroom but as soon as she came in I felt the butterflies kick into action. I went on with what I thought was a lovely lesson. Not a bad day for her to walk in (as opposed to those days where you got two hours of sleep the night before and you are having the kids do practice questions all period while you sit and pray that no one comes in). This observation happened sometime during third period, which ends at 9:57. Fourth period ends at 10:44. Why this is relevant will become apparent shortly.
So, the principal’s in my classroom and I’m doing my thing. I keep checking the clock to make sure I get to the closing before the bell rings. The kids are working, I working with them and all is going well. I do my closing, the kids pack up to go and I think I’ve totally nailed it. Then it happens. I hear this from one of the students in the back of the room:
“Ms. Cimini, we still have 15 minutes”.
Crap. Crap. Crap.
The butterflies in my stomach were apparently totally messing with me. In my head, third period ended at 9:44. I had gotten the periods mixed up. I dismissed the class 15 minutes early while the principal was sitting in the room. Fantastic. I had to quickly gather them back and scramble to find something to fill the last fifteen minutes of class. I thought I was going to vomit.
After class, my principal and I sat down to debrief the lesson and she was laughing. Thankfully, she saw the humor in my monumental frak up and all as forgiven. Every time she came into the room from that point forward I kept super careful track of the time.
Fast forward to last Friday. Halfway through one of the periods my principal and AP come in to observe my co-teacher and myself. This was another one of those informal observations so we had no idea they were coming. They walked in and I didn’t even notice they were there for the first few minutes because I was working with kids (points for me!!!). The lesson was going great. The kids were engaged, they could speak coherently about they were doing and they were even self-assessing. Best observation ever! After about fifteen minutes of the observation, the period was drawing to a close so I had the students wrap up their work, did my closing exercise and dismissed the kids.
“Ms. Cimini? There’s still ten minutes of class”, peeps one of the kids from the back of the room.
I did it again.
Crap. Crap. Crap.
Three adults in the room and not one of them told me!!! Not even my co-teacher who must have been monumentally confused as to why I was letting the students go 10 minutes early.
And in the back of the room my principal and AP are cracking up because I did it again.
At the end of class we laughed about it (thankfully) and I swore up and down that I never do that when they aren’t in class. And it’s true. I never dismiss classes at the wrong time. Unless my principal happens to be standing in the room.
I haven’t gotten the feedback yet from that observation but my fingers are crossed that she is still laughing about it!
So, the moral of the story? Make a huge poster stating period end times and hope that your principal has a sense of humor. And a big thank you to my principal for yours!!