Remember when the principal used to come into your classroom? Though he or she was only there to observe your teacher, if you were like me, you immediately started running through the day and whether you had littered on campus or let a curse word drop. Total reflex action, then you promptly swallowed your gum and dropped the note you were writing (translation for anyone under 25—text message you were sending) and sat up straight in your chair.
Principals still have a similar affect upon entering the room, so how do teachers ever accurately demonstrate to supervisors their classroom management skills? How does a principal ever see a classroom function—or not function—in its natural state?
The difficulty with monitoring teacher effectiveness contributes to what Rick Hess calls in his Education Week blog a “quality control” problem. In addition to problems with teacher evaluations, principals are often strapped for resources during the hiring process and when it comes to providing professional development for their staffs.
Telepresence technology is helping schools with their human resources challenges. This includes remote, non-intrusive observing by school administration. OK, I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not illegal “video-taping” or anything of the sort—the teacher knows it’s observation time, but the classroom retains its natural flow.
Schools can also screen recruits using telepresence. Principals and administrators can interview recruits -- and without leaving their offices and risking distraction in the hallways or incurring travel time, potential employers can watch student teachers deliver a lesson plan and engage with students.
As schools are working to transform and create more common time for educators, a telepresence connection between classrooms or campuses could allow groups of teachers to gather on common prep times and observe how another practitioner tackles a certain topic or relates to a certain challenging student. This collaboration could improve new teacher induction and retention as well.
Overall, telepresence provides a less intrusive, much more authentic, observation environment, benefiting both administrators and teachers as they seek to develop better schools. Do you agree? Does you school use remote observation and/or collaboration?