Pineapples for Change
February 18th, 2018
A Peer Observation Program That's Opening Doors, Discussions, and Minds
I've long been fascinated by Jennifer Gonzalez's blog post about Pineapple Charts as a way to encourage teacher peer observation without pressure, paperwork, or rigid guidelines. As I began work as a tech coach at my middle school this year, I realized I had a unique opportunity to implement this system. The previous peer observation system, from what I was told, was overburdened with documentation and used Google Classroom to manage scheduling - a favorite tool of mine, but not ideal for the task at hand.
After meeting with the teacher who previously led the program and pitching this idea, we devised a plan. She would rally the troops behind the scenes, and I would create a short introduction video to roll out the idea at the next faculty meeting. Our roles expanded to include developing an FAQ, creating "marketing" emails to encourage participation, developing feedback surveys, and of course, sharing the weekly signup chart. We had no idea what the response would be.
We are pleasantly surprised by the results so far. After a few weeks, we now have at least one (sometimes more!) classroom open for observations! We even have 5 teachers signed up for our #ObserveMe list, which means they are open to observers any class period they are teaching. We've had technology tools like Padlet, Quizziz, Google Drawings, and GoToMeetings on display, but also creative teaching like Kagan strategies, student science mentors, and Genius Hour.
I expected it to be difficult to get teachers to open their doors. I was wrong - that wasn't the biggest challenge.
After conducting a survey, talking with teachers, and observing classrooms ourselves, we found we have an unexpected issue - not enough teachers are observing one another. The biggest hurdle was time (our eternal enemy). Teachers said they either didn't have the time, or their preps didn't coincide with the lessons they wanted to see.
I'm still very optimistic about this program. People are talking about it, and even though there are sometimes sarcastic remarks, we are finding ways to redirect them towards the positive. Our principal has agreed to allow teachers to cover each others' classes for observation times. We are going to present a very short overview of the benefits and ask teachers to commit to one 5-minute observation per week. We also started sending "Pineapple Alert" emails midweek to highlight a classroom we highly recommend visiting.
The Coalition Against Everything will not slow down this movement!
For me, this was an inspirational undertaking. It was a big risk to try this program and I wasn't 100% sure it would see any success. I'm incredibly happy with the support we've received so far. There are many teachers participating and several more that say they want to eventually. Teachers are actively looking at the document and considering posting their lessons, even if they don't always follow through. I've had more teachers approach me in the last month for support in their classroom than I had the previous months of the school year combined. Self-improvement and accepting feedback is becoming a bigger part of the culture. We've opened classrooms doors as well, and that's no small feat.
We've opened some minds!
Next to their homes, a teacher's classroom is the most personal space in their lives.
As a coach, I am encouraged by the willingness our teachers have shown to allow others into this space. My next steps are to build upon this experience to continue being a change agent. I am learning every day how to drive improvement, push innovation, and support teacher development in a positive way. I am hopeful and optimistic that we as a staff will continue to grow and to develop valuable learning experiences for our 21st Century Learners.