Sunday, October 9, 2016

Observations from the Outside

Of all the different 'in-school' experiences I've had since deciding I was going to pursue a teaching career, I had never gone to a school for student/teacher observing up until a couple of weeks ago. As a requirement for a class right now, I needed to find a teacher who was willing to let me come observe his/her classroom for several days throughout this semester. As someone who is from the general area, I decided it would be easy to go back to my high school and observe a teacher there. I ended up asking a math teacher who I had never had while I attended high school, although I took the class that he is teaching. Mr. K is a math teacher at Grandville High School and teaches Pre-Calculus. Because I had never had the experience of having him as a teacher, I thought this would be a good route to go, as it would give me a new perspective that I had never observed before. My younger brother also happens to be in one of Mr. K’s classes right now and really likes the way he teaches; another reason I thought he (Mr. K) would be a good choice. 

One of the first things I noticed about Mr. K, was that he was a very genuinely nice person. Although we had never met, he was more than willing to help me out, and I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all while sitting through the class. Throughout the class time, you could tell that he wanted his students to have more of a personal connection to him than just that of “I am the teacher, you are the student”. He wanted them to enjoy his class, not dread it. This was also evident in the way the students acted with him. They were plenty comfortable with asking (and answering) questions, but they were also plenty comfortable with joking around with him and him joking back. I think the relationship that a teacher has with his/her students is one of the most important things for a teacher to establish. In some cases, students see their teachers more often than they see their parents, and because of this, it is important for there to be a positive connection, or at least the opportunity for a positive connection, between teacher and student, and I thought that was great to see in Mr. K’s classroom.

Mr. K’s general schedule for the day included time for questions about the homework, time for his lecture, time for questions about the lecture, time for example homework/practice problems, and time to work on the homework in class. I thought this was a great way to organize the time, in an effort to ensure that all his students understood what went on in the previous class period, as well as what is going on in the current one. During this class period, Mr. K just so happened to be teaching “Polynomial Long Division”, which we reviewed not too long before in our 229 class. It was interesting to be able to compare things we talked about in class to what Mr. K was implementing into his classroom. One of the things he did to begin this lesson was do a warm-up problem with synthetic division. I found this especially interesting, because this was not something I ever learned. The first time I ever saw synthetic division played out was in our class, this year. So it was interesting to see not only how he used concepts we talked about in our class, but also to see what has changed slightly since I had attended this high school. When Mr. K actually started the process of explaining polynomial long division, he followed the generic process that I have always been taught as seen below (we also did this in class). In any case, I thought he did a great job of explaining the method and process of how he obtained an answer. After explaining the first one, he took questions and then moved on to another example, explaining again very thoroughly. He repeated this until there were no more questions.

Another thing I noticed during this observation was that Mr. K didn't plan his lecture to last the entire class period. I think sometimes as teachers, we feel the need to fill the entire hour with the lecture, scrambling to assign the homework one minute before the bell rings, and therefore not allowing students to ask questions about the homework before they bring it home. Each of these classes at Grandville are only an hour long, and somehow Mr. K still had plenty of time to review questions from the previous night's homework, as well as to allow his students to work on their homework problems in class. Seeing this was, in my opinion, a really impressive way to see how Mr. K organizes his class time to ensure that his students were going home confidently, rather than confused.
Overall, after just one hour of observing so far, I am very impressed with the way that Mr. K approaches his classroom, and I am excited to see what I learn from him throughout the rest of this observation time. As someone who has always been on the inside, experiencing these things while they're happening, it was great to now have the opportunity to observe on the outside, looking in.

With that, I am a math teacher in the making, a fellow math nerd, and these are just some of my thoughts. Thanks for reading.


  1. Good explanation of what happened. We could hear a bit more about what info went into the thorough explanation, and what the student questions were, to get deeper into the teaching. (content) It would be also cool to observe how students did in the HW time.

    clear, coherent, complete, consolidated +
    content - see note.

  2. I think it was a great idea on your part to observe a teacher you never had since you were observing at your old high school! I also like how the class was planned out and it is the same set up everyday. I really like how he lets time for students to start working on homework in class, I think a lot of students have a bunch of homework every night so it is nice to have some class time to work on it and also be able to ask questions there. Yeah I'm also curious to how he explained it to the students and also things that the students were confused about with the synthetic division. I'm just curious how much time he spent on reviewing homework. I think it is great idea, but how does he do it to make sure it is effective? Does he go through every problem or just address the questions that a majority of the students had questions on? In my previous classes, reviewing homework took a lot of time so I'm wondering how he minimized that.

  3. I enjoyed how you explained the class structure, ans what you thought was good about his time management. I also think it was a good idea to find a teacher you were not familiar with. It is always good to go out of your comfort zone. My suggestion would be to think more critically of why the teacher was teaching a lesson. Try to figure out what his end goal is, and think of how you would change his methods. Overall you did a great job and I really enjoyed reading it.

  4. Hey Kelsey! I enjoyed reading this! I think one strength you had in this was definitely the way you approached the classroom observation. First, you were proactive about going to a class that you hadn't been to before, and that was awesome. I really enjoyed hearing the way you talk about his teaching style, especially the part about not having to fill the entire class period! Good stuff! If I were to tell you something to improve on, it would be to have more examples. What his teaching style is like is very interesting, and providing exact examples of situations or ways he went about solving a specific problem might add to this! Great job on this blog!

  5. Going back to your old high school is always a fun and interesting experience! I liked how you picked a teacher you never had before. I am curious though if you did pick a teacher you already had, if you would observe his or her teaching in a different way now that you are actually looking at their teaching style. The fact that Mr. K goes over homework in the beginning goes back to our discussion on review. I really love how he does this because it keep material fresh in students minds as days go by. It will be interesting to see if he also has a review day before a test (if you are able to obverse that). I agree with others how it would be interesting to know how he explained his lesson and what questions were asked. Good post!

  6. It was interesting to read over what you got from his lesson that day. Although I was sitting right beside you, I feel like there were things that I saw that you didn't mention and things that you mentioned that I hadn't noticed. I really enjoyed reading your perspective on things.