Observer as Learner

Shantel Popp, Science Department Head
Over the past two weeks, I have been lucky enough to visit my colleagues' classes in the Science Department at HTS. I’ve seen general science, physics, biology, chemistry, and Grade 4 science all in action.

I had many takeaways during my time observing, but I think most importantly, my observations were that these teachers are dedicated to their craft, and all have a real community culture in their classrooms.

I was able to observe a conversation happening between student and teacher, where the teacher was checking in on important topics covered recently, and preparing the student for upcoming summatives. I saw a pre-lab get set up and important foundational skills developed. I even got to hear about positive tests, and how to control variables. I also saw how students were engaged in their own learning, by taking up blank copies of a quiz, so they could focus on the learning, and not the marks. I saw great videos showcased and debrief discussions as well as junior students excited about designing a species with incredible adaptations.

Teacher’s have goals, just like students, and are encouraged to model and share our goals as educational professionals. Teachers have a digital portfolio that is built on throughout the school year. Teachers share these goals with their coaches, and department heads in particular, but are free to post them anywhere. I believe this transparency really showcases that teachers are learners too, and take care to refine and take risks during the school year with each of their courses. As a school, we have worked with Sandra Herbst, a talented facilitator and assessment guru. Teachers have worked hard to be open to conversations about the goals they have in their classrooms and to debrief about the experience with the observer afterwards.

One of the most important things I was able to say to all my colleagues after my observations was that I truly learned something as an educator as I sat alongside the students in their classes.