Class observations can be stressful and sometimes not very effective. We are used to being observed under rigid parameters that rarely provide the teacher with tools that help them reflect authentically on their instruction.
Some time ago I was contacted by Carmen Linares, a Spanish teacher in California, who asked me if she could come to my school to observe my classes for a day. I found it a bit strange that someone would want to come from so far away, usually we are used to having colleagues who work in the same city visit us. However, I accepted and made the necessary arrangements at my school for her visit.
It’s very different to be observed without a professional evaluation in the middle, and by a colleague who appreciates your style. So even though I wasn’t feeling very healthy, I taught my classes that day so Carmen could observe them. Above all, I wanted the classes to be a true reflection of what I do every day, not the dog and pony show that we are usually expected to put on when we are formally observed.
Carmen has now returned to California and I have asked her to share with me and with you those things that she observed in my classes that will somehow help her when planning and conducting her classes.
Things that benefited me from seeing Mr. Ojeda’s class
(By Carmen Linares)
1- The way Diego interacts with his students makes me understand that teachers must present ourselves to our students as we are. I observed that the connection that Diego has with his students is the main element to create a highly motivated and, above all, memorable class.
2- Observing Diego, I remembered that less is more. That I don’t have to make my students write 20 essays to be successful on the AP exam. Quality is more important than quantity and pacing must be intentionally tailored to the group.
3- I understood that Comprehensive Input is not a methodology, it is not a series of activities, but rather a philosophy that must be synchronized with the human part of the teacher so that it is relevant and meaningful for the students.
4- Diego has a variety of activities such as word games, review, relaxation and reading, poster presentations among others, but the most beneficial thing about his lessons was observing how Diego with all these activities not only helps his students’ learning, rather, it takes them by the hand to AVOID a task/project/activity from becoming something tedious or a simple obligation.
5- Diego uses real stories, rather than fictional that, although do not necessarily hinder language learning, at a high school level do not expose students to authentic culture. Diego exposes his students to real events and true stories, rather than fictional versions, which are often filled with stereotypes.
6- I watched as Diego reminded his students to put their phones in a basket and the kids without objection left their phones. As a result, everyone was very attentive to the lesson and interacting. In my school we have a big problem with the excessive use of mobile phones. So on my return to class I decided to try Diego’s rule and although some of my students were confused and not quite sure if they should put their phone in the basket, they did and I had a very successful lesson. It’s amazing how small changes can help make a lesson more productive but above all more enjoyable.
Thanks to Carmen for observing my classes and for her insights. My classroom door remains open for those who one day want to visit us at Louisville Collegiate School.
Visit my Teachable classroom where you will find courses for teachers with materials for each one of the sections in the advanced Spanish language exam. Access my classroom HERE