This past summer, I began using Twitter as my social media presence for myself as a teacher and an education professional. Skeptical of all social media, I wasn’t sure I’d like it or catch on, but I wanted to see for myself. Within days of creating an account, I had former students finding me. I discovered accounts of inspiring teachers and organizations and media outlets who were all sharing interesting, thought-provoking things about education and teaching and students. I was instantly hooked. Slowly I’ve become more active on Twitter, posting and reposting items of interest. I’ve met new people and have engaged in conversations about education I never would have had without Twitter.
I found #ObserveMe at the beginning of the school year and knew I had to formulate a plan for bringing it to my school. My fellow Teacher Leaders and I developed a plan over the summer to bring monthly team building activities to our staff, the idea being to break down barriers so that we might all work better together. By October, we could see that our work was paying off. People seemed happy to be at work. Our principal reported that teacher absenteeism was down by 2%. The time was right for #ObserveMe.
Using a text rendering protocol from the National School Reform Faculty and an article from educational consultant, Margaret Wheatley Ed.D, called “Discovering One Another as Colleagues,” we introduced the idea of appreciating that everyone on a school’s faculty has something to offer, and everyone has something to learn. People were receptive for the most part. Our administrators sat down at the tables with the teachers and engaged in meaningful discussion about the work we need to do to improve our schools and our teaching. It was the right time, then, to ask everyone to open their doors for a concentrated 7-day period to allow colleagues into our classrooms. The idea originates from Robert Kaplinsky, and has taken off on Twitter. Educators across the country are hanging signs inviting colleagues to provide feedback on specific elements of their own teaching they know they can improve. It takes an open mind, a growth mindset, if you will, to agree to participate. At my school, it worked, but it wasn’t perfect. About 25% of the building agreed to hang the sign, but few took the opportunity to visit each other’s classrooms. I know time has long been scarce for teachers, but my school district went back to allowing teachers daily planning time this year, something we have been without for seven years. My emails encouraged staff to take just 15 minutes to visit a colleague. I naively thought at least half the building would take the opportunity to do so, because seeing each other teach truly is the most powerful way to learn about our own abilities and inabilities. I’m going to survey the staff next week to find out exactly what they thought of the experience, which ran October 27 – November 4, and why they did or did not participate in the movement. I’ll be back with results.