Last week I had my first round of what I like to call “fishbowl therapy”. It was a normal day with my student, except for one thing: I was being watched. As an essential part of the mentorship program through NILD, I am to be observed and critiqued on my performance as an Educational Therapist. Yikes!
My mentor let me know a few days in advance that she would be observing me, so I had time to mentally prepare. However, as any educator can tell you, things in the classroom (or therapy room) rarely go according to plans! Some of the items being noted were:
- Pace: Did I spend an appropriate amount of time on each technique?
- Core Techniques: Were they performed correctly?
- Mediation: Did I ask questions to allow the student to discover her own learning, or did I “give” her the answers?
- Intentionality: Was the lesson intentionally planned for the student?
- Reciprocity: Am I developing a rapport with the student and creating a positive learning environment?
Since I only meet with my student for 60 minutes instead of a typical 80-minute session, I knew that pacing would be the biggest issue for me. In fact, I’ve already discussed this issue with my mentor. I’ve even made some adjustments, such as beginning with the weaker areas to make sure they are covered in a session. So what went wrong this time? I froze! I completely forgot about rearranging the schedule to maximize my time, and it just kind of happened willy-nilly! I felt like the session started strong, but there came a point that my student struggled to memorize a list of words for homework. That’s when I realized that she wasn’t using the strategy we had discussed several times because she didn’t know how. At that point, I took the time to break it down and work through the strategy with her. It was more important that she understood the things she was working so hard to learn, than just doing the work. And it was definitely more important than my score.
Two techniques and 36 minutes down. Three techniques and 24 minutes to go. Oops. That’s when things got exciting! I turned up the dial on “intentionality” and integrated the topics we addressed during the first half of the session into the second half. Instead of just discussing how to make a story to remember a list of words, I had her repeat the first sentence of her story and write it down in proper paragraph form. Then she checked for errors and moved on to the second sentence. It wasn’t a perfect rendition of the Dictation and Copy technique, but we only had a few more minutes to work with, and it helped to solidify the story she came up with to memorize her Blue Book words.
After all was said and done, my mentor, Lynn, was quite encouraging. She said, “I don’t know why you were so worried; I think you did great!” She handed me the rubric she had taken notes on, and I found lots of positive feedback. She said I am strong at directing the student with questions, waiting for the student to respond, and changing my original plan to meet the needs of my student (intentionality). I need to work on pacing the lesson, assigning homework instead of doing the whole lesson together, and starting with the weakest area to ensure that it is covered.
When I got home, my husband asked me a great question, “Would you rather work in an environment where you are observed, given valuable and productive feedback, and provided abundant support; or would you rather work in an environment in which you have all the privacy you need and are not critiqued on how you do things, yet receive no support, no feedback, and no direction?” Of course I prefer the former! Being observed is rough, but it is so valuable and incredibly necessary in order to grow professionally. I’m relieved it’s over, but I am so grateful for the feedback!