I have had a couple of new staff start in the MLC this semester. As part of the selection process they have to do a trial session in the Drop-In Centre, with me observing how they teach in order to give them feedback.
Every time this happens, it has a very unusual effect on my own teaching in the Centre — I start having out-of-body experiences! I find myself watching myself as I’m teaching. I’ll be sitting there working with a student, and simultaneously watching and listening to what I’m doing. A constant undercurrent of questions is flowing beneath my words and actions: Are you really listening to what the students’ understanding is? Was that a good question to ask them? Why haven’t you gotten them to write this instead of you? Did you stop to check if they knew they learned something they can use on their own?
In some ways, it’s disconcerting to have an experience like this — to feel so consciously aware of my teacher conscience as if it’s another person. But in other ways I like it. Most of the rest of the time, I only get to think about what I’m doing with students later when it’s too late to do anything about it (and I mentally kick myself), but when I have this self-awareness, I can change for the better while I’m still with the student.
I wouldn’t wish it on anyone all the time, but I do wish I could more easily give others this sort of out-of-body experience sometimes, because it really is beneficial I think. Perhaps we should all spend more time observing other people teaching where we have the responsibility to give feedback on others’ words and actions. It might make us think about our own actions more.