Observing one’s students being taught by another teacher

Yesterday, I taught a Primary 4 lesson at a school in Macao. The school is taking part in a pilot school-based curriculum development project organised by the Education and Youth Affairs Bureau of the Macao government, and I am the project advisor to the school. The lesson, which I taught in order to promote a culture of peer observation as an activity for professional development, was observed by the principal and 5 teachers. Among them was the class’s regular English teacher. During the postlesson discussion, she remarked that during the observation, she noticed certain potentials of her own students that she had not been aware of all the time.

This was not the first time I heard that remark from a teacher whose class I had had the opportunity to teach for peer observation. This does not mean my teaching is better, but each teacher has her own teaching beliefs and teaching style. After working with a class for some time, the teacher will gradually form certain perceptions of her students – What they are like; what they can and cannot do…She may then unknowingly confine herself to certain routines and teaching activities.

Someone teaching the class for the first time is exempt from this perceptional baggage. She does not have preconceived ideas about the students, and will try anything based on her best judgment. As a result, she may achieve something that the regular teacher has never thought possible.

This is also what i would say to my student teachers prior to their teaching practice: “You may not have the experience, but because you’re new to the students, to the less able ones, you may be bringing new hope; and because you don’t have settled beliefs of what they can or can’t do, you will try anything and you will treat all the students equally. For that, you may be able to produce miracles.”

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