Advice for a classroom observation
May 22, 2018 7:30 AM   Subscribe

I had a decent interview for an assistant teacher position at a Reggio-inspired preschool and have been invited back to see a class in action and be observed interacting with the kids. No formal “lesson,” just playing. I have worked with preschool-aged kids and have read up on Reggio methods, but am just curious what people in the community here think they might be looking for. Any tips/advice?
posted by sometamegazelle to Work & Money (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I develop non-traditional, experiential learning for adults in a business setting, and I spend a fair amount of time observing these experiences in purpose-built environments. I can tell you what I look for when I observe, if it's useful?

I observe how well my delivery teams connect to each participant in the room - are they picking up on attitudes, body language, drawing out quiet participants in an appropriate way, wrangling the over-sharers, things like that. I also observe how well they use (or participate as) co-facilitators.

Are they allowing the participants to drive the conversation? A lot of what we do is self-discovery, so I don't want the delivery teams to be too "leading" in their approach; rather, ask the right questions to see where the participants take it.

I'm also observing how well they use these purpose-built rooms. Do they notice when people get antsy, or tired, or checked out, and do they adjust what they are doing and where they are doing it to get the energy back to the right place? Can they tell when something at this table isn't working, so they get folks up on their feet to do something different to bring some "air" into the room?

A lot of this can translate to Reggio-flavored rooms full of little people - are they engaged, are you plugged in to everyone, are you using the spaces well (assuming they have purpose-built spaces, or subscribe to the piazza-as-center approach), are you partnering well with any other teachers who are in the room?
posted by ersatzkat at 8:33 AM on May 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I work in Early Childhood Education. They just want to see how well you integrate with the classroom and how you get along with your fellow teachers and the kids. You will have to improv a lot of this (which I'm sure as you know is a required skill in preschool).

Importantly, are you listening - to the kids especially, but also what the teachers are setting as the mood in the room. Are you watching, i.e. do you have what I call "big eyes" on the room - even as you're tending to one or two children, are you aware of literally everything else that's happening in the room. And as you are listening and watching, are you responding appropriately; yes, when there's a problem, but also when a kid wants something specific and innocuous, like a particular book to be shown to them or a push on the swing. Know what is developmentally appropriate and show it through how you play. And always ask questions. Lots of preschools have different rules (does each kid get one push on the swing per day, how far are they allowed into the woods, etc) and consistency with those rules is important to each classroom. Show that you care about maintaining that consistency. Asking the other teachers what the classroom standards are also demonstrates your interest in the school and the class, and your ability to work as part of a team. Good luck!
posted by transient at 9:13 AM on May 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I work in elementary schools supervising college students who are doing their first practicum, and I teach my students:
- You must have "spidey sense" ("big eyes" is the same thing--am going to steal that, transient!) and scan the room, don't just interact with individual children. You should know what everyone is doing.
- I don't know about Reggio, but in general, don't stand or look down on them with folded arms - lean in, interact, glance over their shoulders, look confident.
- I tell my students "You are the teacher in the room" even on their first day. Don't hover near the official classroom teacher. The kids near him or her are doing just fine. It's the kids on the perimeter you should be checking in with.
- Be relaxed. Don't nervously hunch over or play with your fingers. Hands at your sides, loose. Don't fold your arms (looks like judging).
- When kids are learning they are doing things, or they are interacting with other kids. You are not there to "play" with them or to have conversations. You're there to make sure they are having useful learning experiences, that they aren't hurting themselves or one another, and that everyone in the room is getting a good experience.
posted by Peach at 1:57 PM on May 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

I'm just going to second Peach's comment about not hovering around the main teacher; you're there to be an assistant, so read where she or he is needed in the room at a particular moment and try to get yourself to places where there isn't a grownup. Also seconding not standing whenever possible; sitting in a low chair or on the floor makes the room more kid-friendly. Be a gentle guide in their own discoveries.
posted by transient at 5:16 AM on May 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

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