You can observe a lot just by watching. ~Yogi Berra
I've just begun my field experience for this semester. I'm lucky enough to have the chance to observe a Kindergarten class. Perhaps this is stating the obvious, but the most interesting part of this student teaching observation is that I have the chance to observe. Mindfully so. How much does this come up in life, that you can just sit quietly and watch it all happen?
Even in these usual circumstances, I don't sit much. I'm constitutionally unable to sit while others are working, so I figure out something useful to do in the classroom I'm visiting and I do it. Even so, there are moments when I really don't have a job, and all I can do is watch.
When I'm simply watching in a classroom, instead of being either a teacher or a student, I see things I wouldn't otherwise see. For example, I used to know a teacher (not the current teacher I'm observing, who is absolutely lovely, by the way) who didn't like to be kept waiting when she called on a child whose hand was raised. She would say the child's name, and if he or she took a long pause before speaking, she was say, "Too long!" and move on to another raised hand. This teacher had a lot of great qualities, and no doubt she picked up this technique somewhere as a means to teach children to think through their responses before they raised their hands.
But I wonder if she would have kept using this technique if she saw what I saw. She was busy, thinking about several things and trying to deliver content at the same time. But I was just observing, so my eye could linger on one little boy who had just received a "Too long!" His face sagged inward, he slumped his small shoulders, and he looked down at the carpet. Did he learn the intended lesson, that he needed to think through his responses before he raised his hand? I don't know. But through watching him, I could gather that he learned that raising his hand is not something he planned to do again anytime soon.
What else would I learn if I had the chance to sit and observe my own classroom? It's a great argument for videotaping class sessions, and going back over them later, to pick up the small cues that I missed in the moment. Does anyone do this? What did you find out?