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Watching yourself teach

Rachael Williams – Year 9 Learning Leader at Ballarat Grammar School – shares how watching a video of yourself teach can be an uncomfortable experience in the beginning, but it’s a great opportunity to reflect, learn and improve.

It was an indescribable mix of fear and curiosity that gripped me when I was asked if I would mind someone filming me teach.

Later, I would watch the footage with 160 of my closest colleagues under the direction of a noted teaching and learning expert consulting to our school.

The purpose of the session was to encourage teachers to see the benefit of examining teaching and learning in their classrooms through the analysis of video.

It is easy to lament that a lack of funding or opportunity in some schools inhibits professional learning, but watching yourself teach is well within your control. Any teacher with a smartphone and a willing colleague or student can capture moments in their own classroom. Some will already be accessing videos of teachers sharing relevant and effective instructional strategies – online resources include The Teaching Channel and Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion clips.

After viewing the footage of my own teaching, I was tough on myself in my self-reflection but I knew that I could and would improve. In some ways it was easier to critique myself than it might have been to decipher the more gentle, diplomatic feedback that often comes from others.

The first five seconds of the clip were particularly excruciating. As the video sprang to life, with me calling the class to attention, the volume was still being adjusted. The shrieking call for attention that ensued was every bit as mortifying as you might imagine… I promised myself in that moment that I would establish non-verbal cues with my class that would enable shriek-less transitions. The first time I saw the class the next day, I delivered a heartfelt apology and we agreed to find non-verbal signals that worked for our class and didn’t make them feel like primary students.

It took all of five seconds of watching myself teach for this epiphany to strike, 10 minutes to search for non-verbal attention signals and 10 minutes to discuss them with my class and settle on one or two that we think will work for us. It’s not that I didn’t know about non-verbal attention signals prior to this moment. I did. But I didn’t really think I needed them until I heard how my screechy calls for attention sounded from the perspective of a student.

I wondered what else I could learn from watching all 40 minutes of footage.

Watching myself teach made me realise that carefully thinking about the teacher script for a lesson, including when to talk and when to keep quiet, can allow more time for students to talk and more time for you to listen.

One of the most surprising outcomes came from the conversations I had with students afterwards. (They) saw me as both a teacher and a learner and know that I have teaching and learning goals that I am working towards.

References: Sherin, M. & Dyer, E. (2017). Teacher self-captured video: Learning to see. Phi Delta Kappan, 98(7), 49-54.
This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Teacher magazine and has been reproduced with the permission of the Australian Council for Educational Research. To read the full article and to read more articles like this visit www.teachermagazine.com.au.