Yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting in on a demo lesson given by a 7th grade science teacher. This lesson was amazingly good. The teacher engaged the kids, varied the activities and made some really good science points. I was impressed and would have hired her in a second.
After the lesson everyone went back to the office to talk. A couple of teachers had sat in on the lesson and some other people. There were a lot of questions or points of the; why did you do this, or do you think it would have been better if you did this, variety. It was the typical discussion that happens when supervisors or people who feel they have input, have with other teachers. There was nothing particularly bad about the conversation and ultimately the teacher was offered the job.
The reason I am writing about this is that I wonder if this same group would have sat with VanGough and told him that maybe he should add a little more blue to his sky. I suspect that they would have. The reason that they would have is that they feel they have to say something and they have to find something wrong. There is a famous story about a commercial illustrator who was hired to paint a picture of 50 couples dancing on a ship's deck. When he turned the painting in and everyone was looking at it someone noticed that one of the women had a hairy arm. The client pointed this out and the illustrator apologized and took the picture back to correct his error. When asked by someone how he could have made that mistake he said that he had done it on purpose. He explained that if he had not done it then the client would have asked him to do some other change, such as rotating all the people 30 degrees.
Of course supervisors do what they think they should do, which is supervise. No one thinks that if they start messing with great teachers that they may make them worse. No supervisor ever thinks that the teacher they are observing is better than they are. We have all been trained to criticize and not praise. This needs to change.