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Staff struggling with obs

Discussion in 'Heads of department' started by NewbieHoD, Apr 25, 2018.

  1. NewbieHoD

    NewbieHoD New commenter


    I've got a great teacher on my team - great results, learning walk feedback, marking, student voice etc. - but she just falls apart in observations. Doesn't matter if it's graded or not, if it's me or someone else observing, but any time she gets a formal observation she just falls apart the week before and until it is over. She becomes a bag of nerves, freezes up when the observer walks in, and invariably ends up with the lesson falling apart.

    Any bright ideas? TIA
  2. cellerdore

    cellerdore Occasional commenter

    Have you asked her why this might be? If everything else is fine, it might be that she has had some terrible experiences with observations in the past.

    I do not know what your observation culture is like in your school but I find the best ones I have been a part of make observations developmental rather than judgemental. Simple things like: no grading (OFSTED doesn't so I am surprised that your school is); single focus observations; coaching rather than dictating. Read the "Ridiculous comments given in lesson observations" thread to see how not to do it: if you or or colleagues are doing any of these, the problem is probably not with her.
  3. hs9981

    hs9981 Established commenter


    SEBREGIS Lead commenter

    Have you thought of NOT observing her?
  5. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    You've got someone in your team who can NEVER leave the department (she couldn't do an interview lesson). NEVER take your job (similarly).

    Unless you have a ticky-box issue then I don't see the problem.
  6. sparkleghirl

    sparkleghirl Star commenter

    Just shows the worthlessness of observations.
    The oberver affects the outcome.
  7. simonCOAL

    simonCOAL Occasional commenter

    Are whole lessons observed or only parts?
    Perhaps you could try observing a specific section of the lesson and build up over time.
    Does she carry out observations of other teachers? If not, give it a go. One of your lessons maybe? This could be to deal with an in-school variation issue (not judgemental). Sometimes a change of perspective can help.

    Discussing whether or not observations are worth doing doesn't address your concerns at the moment but your case certainly highlights glaring issues.
    baretrix, Pomza and MarieAnn18 like this.
  8. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    If you already know she is a great teacher, why do you need to observe her?
  9. fineliner

    fineliner Occasional commenter

    What is the purpose of the observation? I would start by looking at this. Is there any other way that the purpose could be achieved without an observation taking place? You suggest it is only ‘formal’ observations that have this effect. How does these differ from informal observations? Are there ways that you can make formal observations more like informal ones?

    I agree that lesson observations (of teaching) are over used in many schools. Given that you have an excellent teacher on the team, I’d avoid doing things that stress her out if they are avoidable.
  10. NewbieHoD

    NewbieHoD New commenter

    Thanks for everyone’s input. We’re in FE, and we have one formal graded observation per year. Unless the majority of SLT change then that’s not likely to change at any point soon.

    I do lots of informal walkthrough / learning walk observations, and these plus the other evidence mentioned forms our appraisal process. The formal obs contributes part of this, but as I say everything else is excellent so there are no issues with performance management or anything else.

    I have to say, our formal obs are actually relatively gentle and are always supportive and developmental, despite being graded. We have a broadly-excellent teaching team, so no need for a big stick approach. I think this is going to be a bit of a psychological block that needs nurturing out.

    Speaking to colleagues, one of our other HoDs has told me she used to be in a similar position and she worked through it, so she’s agreed to do some coaching and buddy up with my member of staff a bit.

    In the long run she’s going to have to get over this. The main differences between our formal obs and the walkthroughs are the grading and who does the obs - we don’t do the formal obs on our own team. So I’m planning to work with some HoD colleagues and trade some walkthroughs with them to help her her used to other people in her lessons. These are very supportive and developmental, so hopefully she will get there in the end.
  11. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter


    If this once a year graded observation has such high stakes that it outweighs all other evidence, then no wonder your staff freak out over it.

    I hate observations with a passion and totally understand where your member of staff is coming from. All the support in the world won't change anything if she knows that this one lesson of the entire year carries such high stakes. You are lucky she turns up at work on that day to be honest.

    A whole heap of evidence of excellence shouldn't be outweighed by one naff lesson grade.
  12. NewbieHoD

    NewbieHoD New commenter

    Sorry, I’ve not been clear enough. It doesn’t carry high stakes for us. It’s part of a wider picture, and there are no issues regarding her overall performance. Absolutely no question of her going through competency / performance management etc.

    However, it’s not going away as part of the process. An overwhelmingly vast majority of our staff cope with the process without a major issue. Even my colleague in question, when speaking to her objectively and calmly about it, accepts and understands its role in the overall appraisal process. But when she gets the notification the week before it all goes out the window and she’s back to panic stations.

    My phrasing probably came across less compassionate than intended. Ultimately, we need to find a way to help and support her in getting over this. Teachers likely will always be observed, one way or another, and I can’t imagine her wanting to go through this once a year for the next 40 years of her career, potentially!
  13. binaryhex

    binaryhex Lead commenter

    Just use observations from an informal drop and call it a formal one. Say you didn’t tell her because you know she gets nervous. Job done. To spend time getting someone to be good at observations is boardering on world class stupidity!
  14. sparkleghirl

    sparkleghirl Star commenter

    These obs

    1. Don't provide an accurate picture of her as a teacher
    2. Cause her debilitating stress
    3. Mean that the lesson falls apart so the students also lose out with an inferior standard of teaching/learning.

    And yet management persist with them. Management need to ask themselves what they hope to achieve by conducting these obs and whether they are worth it.
  15. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    I'm like this, I've had horrendous experiences of lesson obs in the past, including a manager basically saying I needed to sign my house over to him to get a good obs....

    I have been left with a severe and debilitating phobia.

    Best thing for me is not to know in advance when someone is coming in, but I appreciate that doesn't work well for everybody
    agathamorse and StarbucksCovfefe like this.
  16. pennyh.

    pennyh. Occasional commenter

    I sympathise with your colleague. It usually seems to be a one way track impacting on so called 'junior' members of staff, even if they have been teaching for years, and has to involve some aspect of 'could do better'. The cycle is every 39 weeks not even 52 weeks. All the observing wastes so much time and is of no help and is the problem with one size fits all. That is the issue -formal observed lessons become false hoop jumping lessons which you grade. She can never honestly grade you because you would not like it even if you do think you could take it on the chin. A good teacher as your colleague seems to be probably wants to tell you all where to go and leave her alone! Slip in and read a book telling her you are calling it the official one but that you are already OK on everything.
  17. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Totally this.

    So long as she turns up to the lesson and does something resembling teaching, copes with her panic without punching people on the nose, there really isn't a problem.
    I might recommend this to my SLT.
  18. Pomza

    Pomza Star commenter

    Do this.

    Go in for a few minutes, smile and make nice, then go away and fill in the observation form.

    If you think she is great and results, student work and casual wander-throughs confirm this, what on earth is the point of a 'formal' observation. Waste of everybody's time.
  19. Mr_G_ICT

    Mr_G_ICT New commenter

    Difficult..esp as it's appraisal linked. As suggested can you do a load of mini learning walks and use these as contributors to the final appraisal.

    Then if the full oBS goes wrong when the pay recommend comes up you can use both as evidence
    baretrix and agathamorse like this.
  20. LoopyLew

    LoopyLew New commenter

    Maybe try her with a team teach? You start the lesson, she takes over and you clearly show kids she's in charge, then you do a bit.... then swap. It helped me once with a colleague who basically needed valium to be observed. I did a few of these, and it actually helped a bit I think.
    agathamorse likes this.

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