Let’s Go to the Video Tape

Video: perhaps a smashing way to self-assess.

This blog is a great way for me to reflect on my teaching and my students. So is sitting in traffic on the way home. So is receiving feedback from coaches and administrators.

Recently, though, I realized I have another powerful way to appraise myself, and perhaps it is the most objective: video.

I uploaded some classroom footage from my Flip camera the other night. Watching gave me the opportunity to see, almost from a third person point of view, the way students interacted with me and each other. I was also able to get a sense for what I sound like when I speak with the kids.

Watching the videos (these were of a math game kids played to hash out the meaning of place value), I was struck by the brightness of the kids’ smiles. Even my seemingly quietest, least confident kids had bright pearly whites to flash. I didn’t realize this when they were playing the game, of course, as I was too focused on their mathematical reasoning. It is nice to be able to step back and see that I am giving them opportunities to have fun learning. When you’re in the thick of it, you can’t always appreciate the lights flickering in kids’ eyes or the gears turning in their heads.

Now, onto me. Speaking quite bluntly, I can sit here and talk myself up as a sensitive practitioner until I’m blue in the face, but hearing myself on the video forced me to reconsider whether this is true. Sure, I know my intentions when I speak are generally positive, and in my head, so many things I say sound mellifluous and loving. However, the video indicated that maybe my tone of voice could be improved.

Like I say, I know my intentions are usually the best. So why don’t I sound that way? I’m not looking to sound singsongy or artificial, but I am looking to sound like I respect the kids. Plus, I am reminded of what Rick Lavoie says about kids with learning disabilities: often, it is not the message kids hear, but rather the volume. If the same applies to tone, I could be really missing the boat with some of my students, especially the ones who are conditioned to treat a question or certain types of comments from teachers as suspicious packages.

My next step may be to video a lesson or small group and see how I sound. I wonder if my tone is as bad as I think, and if having a video of it will humble or even shame me to do better.


6 responses to “Let’s Go to the Video Tape

  1. A professor friend of mine had me videotape a read aloud to be used in her TESOL course, and it definitely was eye-opening. It was easier to imagine what it might be like as an ELL in my class, and I still re-live that feeling and perspective whenever I do a read aloud.

  2. I have taped myself as well for various purposes and am always surprised by how loud my room is and how much I talk. Even though I feel I am quiet a lot, I am not. So whenever I see these horrendous tapes it makes me better. Good for you for continuing, I need to get back on it.

  3. I have done the same with my staff. They were surprised at the results and are eager tp this again.

  4. Pingback: Remainders: To teach until one’s students start clapping | GothamSchools

  5. If there were an organization that offered to watch hours of class videos, pull out key clips, and maybe make some suggestions, with the goal of helping teachers improve themselves, would it be useful? The video-watchers/commentators could either be aspiring teachers (so they would learn for themselves what seems to work and what doesn’t while watching more experienced teachers) or veterans (which might have better commentary but would also be costly to employ). On the organization’s side, the video footage could be used to research, and later disseminate, effective teaching strategies. Would anyone use or benefit from such a service?

  6. Ugh. Video. I actually hate watching myself teach on video. The last time I had to do this was when I was doing my student teaching. To be perfectly honest, I spent most of time when I watched the video focusing on how I need to lose ten pounds. Of course I realize this is superficial, but sadly it is the truth.
    Now, sound recordings are a different story. I have used my iphone hooked up to a mic to take a sound recording of my mini-lesson and have found great places to improve. It also seems like part of what you focused on was the sound, or tone of voice, here. Of course my students care much more about how I talk to them than they do my skinny jeans. For which I am grateful.

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