I visited a classroom the other day and I could not have caught the teacher at a worse time. When I arrived and sat down, I could tell the he was frustrated. The teacher was on the way out the door and a fellow teacher in a nearby room, who was on planning, was on the way in the room. From what I could gather from listening in on the conversation, this teacher had tried to make copies that morning and the copier was down. They had also tried to run down and make copies between classes but by then the copier line was very long. As the conversation progressed I could tell the teacher was getting more and more frustrated. They left again to try and make copies of what had to be a document that must’ve been the critical component of the lesson, only to return soon after with the most defeated look on his face. I thought to myself that he must be thinking, “Oh great, the Principal shows up just in time to see my lesson totally fall apart”.
Well, he explained to the students what was supposed to happen and what would have happened had he been able to make his copies. He quickly adapted his lesson and began teaching what turned out to be a pretty good lesson.
Later that afternoon, I was sitting in my office working on something and guess who knocked on my door. Yes, the teacher I observed earlier in the day with the collapsed lesson. I welcomed him in and he sat down. He began apologizing and telling me the story about his adventures with the copier. I tried to respond but as I was taking a breath to begin speaking he started apologizing again but this time he went into detail about what the lesson was supposed to look like. I could tell that he was really bothered about me seeing his lesson disrupted by a broken copier.
I finally just interrupted him and asked if he thought I was upset with him because his lesson was disrupted. He said to me that he just wanted me to know that he usually is fully prepared and that this was a once in a lifetime thing. You should have seen his face when I told him that I knew this was not the norm for his class. I also told him that if he teaches long enough there will likely be several more of those moments. I explained to him that as many times as I had been in his room that this was the first time I had ever seen him have something like this happen. I explained to him that I enjoyed seeing him recover from an unfortunate circumstance. Real teachers are effective despite the circumstance or incident.
He explained to me that he was so relieved to hear me say that I was not upset about what I had observed in his class. He was very grateful when I explained to him that I had been in his classroom many times and that because of this, I knew that what I had just observed was not the norm for him. It was the exception. He actually caught me a little off guard being so stressed about me observing his class when things were not going well. The observation was actually relatively positive because I was able to see him respond to a difficult situation in a manner that was controlled and effective in providing his students with a good lesson, despite the mishaps that may have occurred along the way.
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