Scariest Moment Ever: Digitally Recording Oneself Teaching

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.


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