An Outsider’s Training Visit – Reflecting on the Approach and Experience

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For one week, our language centre was going to have a trainer visit to provide us, the teachers, with a chance to have this an outsider from the head office observe our teaching and be, himself, observed by us. This would allow the teachers to take a look at their teaching and hopefully benefit and develop ideas and new teaching methods as well as learn from this person’s teaching. Of course, as a professional teacher, it is always advantageous to take a step back and observes other teachers as well as ponder some of your teaching techniques. For me, the experience sounded a pleasant change and a chance to improve my teaching.   We were initially given some information regarding the visit. This explained that the process would ‘provide teachers with support to reflect on and develop their own teaching’ and ‘freshen up the branch atmosphere’. It sounded like a great new approach. I was also buoyed by the fact that this outside trainer would be providing the feedback. I say this because I completed a teaching course with him (he was a trainer) at the head office and found him to be a person who could evaluate your teaching and give constructive criticism without making you feel you failed in any way.

So, day one, I walked into the office and met with our centre manager and had a chat with him and said ‘hello’ to the outside observer/trainer. I explained to him that I would have to speak with him about my class which he would take over and teach for one lesson. This was fine. That day was fine he passed me in the office nothing was said. The next day, I said ‘hello’ again nothing much was said.  That day, he walked in and out of our teachers’ room without saying anything. The following day, I was on the computer, and I remember this trainer coming in the teacher’s room. I did not see him, and I remember he basically walked past me and sat on the computer next to me and never said anything. I got the feeling that he was being a bit absent. I thought to myself ‘oh, hello Neil’. It seemed a bit strange he had not actually said anything to me from day one or had not made any attempt. From this point on, I remember thinking that he was not being that familiar. It seemed he was not really trying to be friendly and make this ‘outsider’ experience pleasurable. If anything he was fitting the role as an ‘outsider, a hired in professional you could say. Generally, it was after these experiences that I noticed that this guy was in the manager’s office most of the time or on the computer never really coming into the office. For myself, I thought I knew the man and we were familiar with each other from the teaching course although I think, at that point, I was mistaken. I found him to be very cold and not willing to participate with our team of teachers or get involved. It was then that I had the feeling that he must think he is superior in some way, and we are only teachers; he does not want to associate with us. I was confused I had read the initial information about this professional development process given to us to read telling us about ‘empowering the teachers’. My experiences so far were not telling me this.

So, the trainer was now going to teach my class. The time came for him to teach my class, he went in and taught the class. Again, I was confused I had read that the outsider would ‘meet before class so that the visitor can explain the day’s lesson objectives and contextualise the lesson’. I was at my desk all the time before the lesson and nothing was said. I was in the dark.  My feelings during his lesson from all the happenings I had had, I must admit, I was not inspired to take a positive look at his lesson. For myself, I felt that he thought he was a bit above us teachers. So, it prevailed that when we had the feedback session I made a point of showing that he was not above us and his lesson had certain aspects where he had moments as not to be so perfect.

Once I had observed the outside observer/trainers teaching, it was now time for me to be observed. I thought I was being observed by this outsider although I realised later that it was actually the manager, although the trainer was in the room observing me and writing down notes which meant he was observing. The observation of me was on Sunday at 9.00am. I arrived at 8.20pm that day and spent 35 minutes getting ready to make sure I could do my best. Once all this preparation was done I sat down for two minutes just before I was to go into the classroom; then just before I was to go in the class, the manager came up to me and started to ask questions about what I was to do in the class. I felt as this was not the time to be discussing objectives and procedures. This was not planned and not an appropriate time I thought. My reaction to the manager’s questions was one of ‘give me a break’, I need a couple of minutes to relax and contemplate before a 3-hour class and you could have picked a better time.

The class I thought went fine. Of course, there were aspects that I would have changed but on the whole, I was satisfied. That Sunday afternoon, I had the feedback meeting regarding the lesson with the two observers. My experience of the whole week had not been as I had thought so by this time I was not relishing speaking with the outsider. The thing was, he was not going to do the feedback. It was the manager as he was learning from the trainer, and it was his chance to show what he had learnt from the trainer from other feedback sessions. The manager asked me to describe my experience of teaching while being observed for 1 hour. I said I thought I was okay and, of course, there were some aspects I may have changed but I think the manager wanted me to be more descriptive so we could generate a meaningful feedback session. I was not really in the mood for this, if I may say ‘interrogation’. I let the manager explain to me. This was the point that I found strange, the manager started using all this technical language like the outside trainer was putting words in his mouth. It felt very unusual for me as I knew the manager very well and have had a lot of conversation where we have discussed teaching in a meaningful way, where I think both us benefited. The problem was that this time it was the manager was saying the trainer’s words. It actually made me think that this was just the same as the teaching course I had done with the trainer a while back. I thought to myself this is just the teaching course again talking about ‘objectives’, ‘SWBATs’ and ‘challenges’. I must admit that I was not as open as I should I have been, and I may have come across as being a little obstructive although I had the feeling that this ‘outsider training’  could have had a new innovative approach that would inspire teachers not just regurgitate old methods from the teaching course.

There are many factors that I have talked about in this reflection, and I cannot say I am not at fault for being part of the process that went wrong. I do feel that some team bonding would have been beneficial, a chance for all the teachers and staff to be familiar with the trainer and for this outsider to feel relaxed with our whole teaching team. I also think if you are going to come into another working environment and do anything you have to create an atmosphere that whole staff feels relaxed, able to contribute and not feel they are not being dictated to. I also feel that if you are going to develop people/teachers by coming into their working environment you should use new ideas and new methodologies that show you put some thought into what you are doing and people can be motivated by your efforts to improve them.

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