We’re 100% confident that watching yourself teach is the absolute best way to learn how to become a better teacher. We’re also 100% confident that almost no one likes doing it. If you feel a sense of anxiety when you sit down to log into Sibme and watch yourself, you’re not alone. That’s why we wanted to highlight the experience of a teacher doing just that.
Maureen is a first-year teacher at a large high school in Texas. She teaches freshman English to a group of kids that she absolutely loves. As a first year teacher, Maureen works with a robust support network that includes a content-team, department heads, administrators, and a mentor. Maureen’s mentor is using Sibme to capture video of her classroom so they can review her lessons together and help Maureen strengthen her teaching skills.
We sat down with Maureen the very first time she watched one of her videos. Her mentor recorded two videos and shared them with her in a huddle. One video was ten minutes long and a second video was a bit longer. Although Maureen had been meaning to watch her videos for a few weeks, she was not thrilled by the idea. “I hate seeing myself on camera. It’s awful,” she said. “Mostly I hate how I sound. I could probably tell you exactly what was right and wrong with that lesson.”
So, before watching herself on video, our Director of Customer Success (and experienced new teacher mentor) TJ sat down with Maureen to talk her through the process. First, TJ asked Maureen to watch 3 minutes of her video and see what she observed. Maureen’s initial reaction was exactly what she thought it would be. She noticed the sound of her voice, her clothes, the number of times she said “um” during the lesson. It’s completely natural to notice superficial things when you first watch yourself on video. By taking time to acknowledge them early on, you can begin to move beyond these surface observations and start to focus on meaningful ways to improve learning in the classroom.
After this, TJ asked Maureen to describe the lesson objectives and talk about the context of the video.
Maureen began by talking about a complement from her mentor.
“My mentor was impressed and told me she should have other teachers come watch me. Which was nice to hear.”
Maureen described the challenges of teaching short-story structure to students and the rigorous reading assignment she had given her students. She really liked what she had planned for her students and had some fun ways to connect the prior assignment to the current lesson. At this point, TJ rewound the video and Maureen watched from the beginning again. TJ asked Maureen to stop every 3 or 4 minutes to answer some specific questions and explain the reasoning behind some of her instructional decisions. This strategy, called Pivotal Pausing, is one of 4 excellent “Guided Noticing” strategies for watching yourself on video. By focusing on specific elements in the lesson and watching with a task in mind, Maureen stopped talking about what she heard and saw in herself, and started talking about her students. As we continued watching the remaining minutes of the video, Maureen was able to identify that she had a good rapport with her students and that they were respectful of the learning environment. She also identified a single goal: increasing student voice in academic discourse. She cited several pieces of evidence from the video as to why she wanted to work on that, and also identified a strategy that will help her accomplish her goal.
After the video-reflection ended, TJ asked Maureen if her feelings about watching herself on video had changed. “It wasn’t as bad as I expected. I definitely see the value in doing this, though.”
Of course, Maureen didn’t go from being hesitant to enthusiastic in 10 minutes. And it’s unrealistic to think that you will either. However, Maureen walked away from the experience with a renewed sense of confidence in her abilities as a teacher. That’s the real goal of this experience. Watching yourself on video might be painful, but it’s worth it.