Learning by Observing

It is 4:30 a.m. and I am wide awake, with many idea fragments and thoughts running through my brain. I cannot sleep and have to capture these kernals and observations so that I can retrieve them for the daunting task which I am currently facing, which is to act as an unbiased mirror, reflecting and confirming the observations of another school. I am both excited and giddy about the intense process which I am currently undertaking and will be doing so for the next 96 hours. It provides for me an opportunity for  professional development which is enriching and exciting. I cannot wait to go back and observe, reflect, and learn from a school observation while getting the opportunity to add new members to my personal learning network, whose ideas, views, and perspectives I will be able to tap into in the months and years ahead.

You see, I work at an independent school which belongs to the Independent Schools of the Central States (ISACS). To maintain membership as an ISACS school and more importantly, as a tool for growth, each school is asked to participate in an analytical review process every seven years. This self-reflection is one which is often loathed for the time and energy that it takes to go through. However, when done right, this process can help a school identify both what their strengths are so that they can continue to build on those. Each school also identifies its weaknesses with plans on how they are going to tackle that challenge.

It is now my job to simply go and observe and interact with the faculty, holding up the mirror to verify that the image that they created is accurate and not skewed. I have 48 hours to peel away the layers to make sure that they have reflected their core. During this process, I will also gain a new lens and perspective which to apply to the way that I view my school. I will be able to bring back ideas, but more importantly new ways to look at both the way that me and my department look at the challenges that we have and allow us to apply our strengths to help resolve our challenges.

The culminating artifact which will be produced is a written document which will then be provided to the school administration. Not only do we have only 48 hours to observe and confirm the picture, but we need to write our reflections for the school to process. It is an intense project and the final report was one that I used to dread. However, since I have begun to use this space to reflect on my ideas and the projects that I work on, I am finding the process to be much simpler. I am already in the habit of partially stepping outside myself to assess and reflect what I am doing.

What would  be interesting would be to produce a mini-documentary, or to provide images which we could use to show our views of what they are doing, we have to produce a document which can be easily accessed by the administration, who unfortunately is more are text based learners. Maybe in the upcoming years, as more schools provide opportunities for students to engage in these ways of creating a story, when they begin to be part of the process as adult teachers, they will push us for the opportunity to use different modalities to tell the story as well.

Now that I have emptied my head and documented my thoughts, I better catch some more sleep so that I will be able to be alert and ready for the morning. It will be here before I want it to be.

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