Once when I was out tubing down the White River in Vermont with some friends, I had a near death experience. After a long afternoon of paddling and having fun in the river, it was time to get out. All seemed good at first, until I got to a section of the river about six feet from the shore that was very far over my head. As I was tired and out of energy, I started sinking. I didn’t think I was going to make it. My short life flashed before my eyes in an instant. Then, my friend came and rescued me, saving my life. That was a scary moment for me. Equally terrifying, though, are moments or instances that induce anxiety: Having to take a big test, interviews, meeting new people, and going to the doctor’s office. These moments create stress and anxiety within me that are almost as terrifying as a near death experience. Today featured one of those moments.
My co-teacher and I have been talking about ways we can create our own, free professional development opportunities in-house. I stupidly suggested recording ourselves teaching as a way to provide each other with feedback on our teaching practices while also becoming aware of things we do unconsciously in the classroom. Unfortunately, my co-teacher loved the idea. As soon as she said, “Yeah, that sounds like a great idea,” my stomach began to growl. Oh no, I thought, that means I really have to do it now. While I actually am really excited about the prospect of reflecting on my teaching in this way, being observed by others makes me super uncomfortable. I clam up, forget what I’m going to say, and usually mess up the lesson I had planned. It’s horrible. Being recorded, I felt, would make me feel the same way; however, I want to challenge myself to step outside my comfort zone, much like what my wife does on a daily basis. I want to do something scary, but I still felt very nervous and anxious.
As we were going to be starting a new unit today in Humanities class, I felt like it would be a great opportunity to record myself teaching. I was a wreck all morning, mentally preparing for this monet. It was so nerve wracking. I started the class by explaining to the students what I was doing and why I was doing it. I wanted to be sure they understood why there was a video recorder in the room as well as understanding the importance of self-reflection. Being a role model for my students is so important. I’m hopeful that some of the good habits my co-teacher and I model for our students will rub off on them by the end of the academic year. I then had my co-teacher set up the camera in the back of the classroom. I was so scared. As the camera started recording, I said aloud, “I’m so nervous.” Yes, that is a great way to start this video, I thought. Then I jumped into the lesson. I was so anxious and nervous inside that I messed up several times. I didn’t say what I had planned to say and my transitions were icky. It felt awful. Then came the break in between our double-block of Humanities. My co-teacher approached me and said, “The camera just shut off when I touched it. I don’t know what happened. I checked it a few times and it seemed to be working. I don’t know if it even recorded anything.” I checked the camera, and sure enough it had only recorded the first two minutes of my lesson. Oh know, I thought, all that hard work for nothing. Then, I became very giddy. “Great. I felt really bad about that lesson anyway. Now I have one more chance to redeem myself,” I said to my co-teacher.
So then came take two. I set up the camera prior to starting the second part of my lesson and hoped for the best. Things are going well, I thought. I felt good about what I was saying and the pace at which I was setting. I called on lots of students during the discussion, moved around the room well, and mixed up my instruction a bit. It felt good. Luckily, this video had successfully recorded on my camera. While I haven’t viewed it yet, I feel good about how the lesson went. It felt much better than the first part of the class. I’m excited and quite nervous to watch myself teaching. I want to be sure I am best helping, supporting, challenging, and guiding my students in the classroom. Am I calling on one student more than another? Am I talking too fast or too softly? Am I talking too much? Do I make sense? These are all things I hope to learn from watching the video of my lesson. I also want to try doing this again and again, so that hopefully I will become more comfortable with observations and being recorded. I also want to show this video to my science department as a way to inspire other teachers to try recording themselves teaching. It is a great way to reflect and grow as a teacher. I’m hoping that by being the guinea pig, others will not feel quite so afraid to try it.
While this adventure of recording myself teaching started out as a scary moment, it seems to be transforming into something positive and wonderful. Now, I say this without having watched it. Perhaps I’ll realize what an awful teacher I am and take my singing ninja idea to the next level. However, I am hopeful that much good will come from taking a risk and trying something terrifying. At least this moment was scary in a safe way, unlike almost drowning.