Nothing terrifies a teacher more than mentioning a class observation. Teachers are observed a lot – a whole lot. Whether from the city, the state, independent organizations, or any part of an administration, having someone watch every move you make to assess your competency is always nerve-wracking, no matter how great you are at your job.
I often feel like a little fish— many eyes and noses frequently pressed up against my bowl of a classroom. Observations in early childhood education are extremely important. They are part of a system that seeks to explore, analyze and improve upon the conditions of students’ environmental safety and instructional quality. However, there is no denying that undocumented, unproven, informal survey data from many teachers I’ve encountered suggests the same thing— children seem to have an indelible sixth sense in knowing when someone will be observing the class and their behavior shifts into full party and/or implacable mode. Of course, it is our job to appropriately navigate and manage whatever moods our students may toss our way.
Supervised fieldwork are two words that, put together, caused more fear in me than any classroom observation I had in the past. This time the stakes were high. Not that classroom observations I’d experienced were unimportant— quite the opposite really— but this time, being observed monthly for two consecutive semesters was extremely significant in my personal life. Supervised fieldwork is a necessary feat in completing my degree in early childhood education. Through frenzied nail biting, I wondered how I’d be able to survive being a new teacher and having my assigned advisor supervise me in the classroom.
As if I didn’t know Bank Street well enough, the program swooped in to remind me. I should have imagined Bank Street’s educational principles would apply in this instance as well. Supervised fieldwork at Bank Street should be called, assistedfieldwork— maybe even gently-guided-and-much-needed-help-in-the-field work. Since last October Denise Prince, the advisor for my cohort conference group, came to my classroom each month to observe my practice and my students. It really felt more like substantial and compassionate professional support. Denise would sit on the rug with us and my kids would crawl all over her, read stories, sing, and she met it all with a smile. There was nothing she ever reacted negatively to— the children were always just children and their sometimes brazen behaviors were never reasons to be affected. She fittingly modeled the way I should conduct myself in the classroom which was an invaluable experience.
My experience with supervised fieldwork was really tailored to my needs and those of my classroom. Occasionally Denise would say, “Did so-and-so look tired today? I wonder what was happening there?” She demonstrated how she was engaged in all aspects of my practice, particularly my students. Or she observed, “the way you incorporated the children’s clothing and interests during meeting time and tied it back to the lesson’s theme was really appropriate!” Her feedback allowed me to reflect upon what works and what doesn’t. She’d comment on the classroom set up (“Block and dramatic play area should be a little larger, maybe moving the furniture to open up the space – they seem to be very popular”). Observations such as these brought a lot of awareness to my practice in being deeply mindful of the details that make an effective classroom and curriculum tick.
Supervised fieldwork has served to teach me how to be more in tune with my students, the classroom, and curriculum. It has offered me insightful observations and feedback which have helped hone my practice— it’s happened in the smoothest way.