High School Observation

By: Susie McCullough

My high school observation was done at Augusta High School in Augusta, KS. My very first experience was when I contacted the school to set up my observation. I called and left a voice mail for the principal and in addition, sent a detailed email and included my Butler letter as an attachment. After waiting about a week for a response, I followed up again with an email and a phone call. I did get a response, but it was not very friendly. It was basically an email that said I already emailed you once (she sent it to the wrong email address) I am forwarding you what I sent. Her original email (that she sent to the wrong email address, even though I spelled it out twice in my voice mail message.) stated that she gave my information to one of her teachers and that the teacher would make contact with me. I thought, okay I can work with this. Since it had already been a week since she had given this teacher my information I decided to go ahead and try to make contact with the teacher, so I sent her an email. Now, I understand that teachers are busy-we all are, but I felt like I was such a burden! I sent my schedule as to what days and times I was available and asked when it would be best for me to observe. the response was that she only has classes every other day and there are only 2 classes on those days. After communicating back and forth trying to get this set up, communication just stopped. I waited for a response for about two weeks before I finally just sent another email and I was able to finally get everything set up. I did not have a very good feeling already and I hadn't even set foot in the building. So, observation day came and I put on my best smile and outfit and walked in to the building.

I must say I was disappointed with how disconnected I felt while I was in the building. All visitors are required to get a visitor pass from the attendance office. My very first encounter was quite nasty. When I entered the office, the staff was balancing her checkbook and gave me a very irritated look. She impatiently showed me where to sign in, gave me a badge and then....she had to show me where I was going(thought she might never recover sight after her dramatic eye roll). Luckily, the room I was assigned was not far from her office. She took me to the room and said she would let the teacher know I was there and then left.

The teacher was Mrs. Nickel, once she arrived in the classroom I introduced myself and she directed me to a chair in the back of the room. No discussion, no explanation, no introduction, nothing. My heart sank and I dreaded sitting through the class and completing the observation.

With all that had gone on I thought there was no way I would gain anything from the experience. To my surprise and delight I learned a lot more than I thought.

This particular class is an English Literature BCCC/AHS Advanced Course for Seniors. Mrs. Nickel is a very direct and to the point person. I sat in on her class on 4 different days. Each and everyday she had instructions on the board and the students were expected to begin the activities as soon as they entered the room. In addition, she had the day's activities listed, so the students knew what to anticipate.

Since this course is an advanced course it gave me a look at the other side of the coin. So much time is often focused on special needs learners who are behind, so it was refreshing to be in this classroom.

Mrs. Nickel did spend most of her time in front of the classroom, however, the students were often in groups and they held many class discussions. No groups were ever the same either. She always had a way of diversifying them, my favorite would have to be when she split them up based on shoe size, I thought that was very creative.

As I observed, I also noticed there was an academic resolution board that the students had. If they had completed their resolution there was a green sticker, and the goal was for all students to meet the goals by the end of the year. Again, I thought that was a very clever idea. When Mrs. Nickel was not in front of the class she was walking around, and I would hear her ask about the kids' weekend, sports, family, etc. She would then follow with something to make sure they had read and comprehended the assigned text. I never would have thought that I would have gained much from just watching someone teach.

On my final day after class had ended, Mrs. Nickel did take the time and talk to me about my own teaching goals, family and life in general. This of course made my day, but I have to say that I wish she would have done that in the beginning!

So finally, I am done.....Yay! Mrs. Nickel signs my Butler letter and I head on my way to get the principals seal of approval. Now, the actual office staff (not cranky pants attendance office) was very kind and welcoming and advised Mrs. Zerr that I was waiting to see her. Mrs. Zerr was very not very welcoming. After waiting 15 minutes to see her she briskly walked out and as I introduced myself, gave me a very annoyed look. She took me in her office signed my letter and sent me on my way.

I know the whole point of the observations is to get a feeling of what it is like to be in a classroom at all levels. I also understand that there will be buildings like this where staff is not always friendly. However, I absolutely despise the atmosphere that is created by such toxic negativity.

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