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My Experience Supervising Teachers

March 31, 2011

In one of my former jobs, I supervised a group of teachers. When I joined the organization, an organization that provided educational support for teaching refugees in a refugee camp in the Philippines. I had no experience as a teacher supervisor, but I had done some teacher training and taught ESL/EFL for a few years. I was given a group of six teachers to supervise but not given very many instructions on how to do it. My supervisor stressed that he hired me because he thought I would improve the professionalism of his department.
With little idea of what to do, I began visiting my teachers in their classrooms daily and found out quickly from them that supervisors didn’t do that. From their reactions, I concluded that supervisors were seen as evaluators who could get them fired if they didn’t perform well. The standard practice was for the supervisor to inform the teacher when he or she would attend a class and the teacher would do a “model lesson” for the supervisor then return to teaching in his or her accustomed manner after the lesson. By attending classes daily, I soon exhausted all the model lessons and overcame the teachers’ fears and suspicions. Since they saw me everyday, they began to share problems and ideas. I taught with them or helped out in classes when needed. For me, the important developments were that I got to know them better and got to see what talented teachers they really were.
As suspicion receded, we developed a more team-like atmosphere at weekly meetings since they did not feel like they had to prove themselves. They were on the whole a really fine group of teachers who brought different skills to their jobs. By the end of the first cycle, they had gotten used to me dropping in on a lesson, observing, and even helping out when I could. We became a team as our relationships changed from one of boss to teacher to a more collegial one. Our conversations became more about teaching and ideas about teaching than about whether some activity was right or wrong. They taught me so much about teaching and about working with other teachers.
I was later told that the group of teachers I was given were some of the more difficult teachers, but I think what made them “difficult” is that they were among the more creative teachers. A couple of years later when I was head of the Staff Development Department, we organized and ran a camp wide conference. This conference had to last a few days so that all the teachers who wanted to show what special things they were doing could participate. Many of the teachers from this group I had first supervised presented. One teacher who had some wonderfully creative activities that he did with his students, Al Cantano, passed away within the last couple of years. He was a man who exemplified the creative spirit in teaching as well as any teacher I have ever known.

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