Robert Kaplinsky has spent the last 15 years in education and is no stranger to having all eyes on him.
He spent thirteen years in Downey Unified School District – eight of them as a Teacher Specialist, working with Secondary Math Teachers. Today, Kaplinsky is an educational consultant, international presenter, and newly minted author. Little did he know when he first invited colleagues to “observe” him three years ago, what a grassroots movement he would be igniting with educators around the globe.
What is the #ObserveMe movement?
Kaplinsky first blogged about #ObserveMe back in August 2016, when he shared a popular tweet from another teacher (Heather Kohn) in which she shared a photo that had been found on the door of a local school, inviting others into the classroom to provide constructive feedback.
In that same blog post, Kaplinsky proposed a call to action – challenging other teachers to post similar signs on their classroom doors and encouraging feedback from visitors. Kaplinsky welcomed colleagues and administrators alike to take a moment to come into his classroom and look at very specific goals he had written for himself. He even included a ready-made template for other teachers to use.
Three days later, he was already receiving responses to his challenge.
Five days after that – his challenge had gone international, hitting classrooms as far away as South Korea and China. Teachers around the globe were connecting with the idea of having fellow educators welcomed into their classrooms and started sharing their signs (along with QR codes and feedback forms).
Who benefits from #ObserveMe?
In his original blog post, Kaplinsky made the remark, “We must acknowledge that one of the best ways to improve practice is to have colleagues observe one another and provide suggestions for improvements. We should welcome others’ constructive feedback and practice giving it as well. Without it we aren’t able to adjust our practice and improve.”
His recent interview with OnCUE mirrored those same beginning sentiments.
“It’s remarkable but shouldn’t be remarkable at all – the act of going into other teachers’ classrooms,” Kaplinsky stated.
Three years later, Kaplinsky still advocates for #ObserveMe to become common practice. “[There is a lot of] value in observing someone else – a lot that can be gained.”
How does one get started with #ObserveMe?
Kaplinksy wants to normalize the process of seeing other teachers in action again and learning from other educators in the classroom setting. But how does one get started with #ObserveMe?
Kaplinksy said it starts with the end in mind.
“What would you be curious about? Are kids really having the conversations you want them to have? You get better because you make observations that help your lesson become better. If you could get even better observations, you’d get better by larger margins more quickly. What goals do I want? The #ObserveMe format has one major component which is – here are your goals. But how you write the goals is everything. How do you set it up so that you get good feedback? Student engagement is not a good format. Identify what you want to get better – and phrasing it ‘How can I get better…'” Kaplinksy stated.
From there, it’s as easy as posting a sign on your classroom door.
He does warn that it can be a slow process at first. “Let me be clear – this is not ‘Field of Dreams.’ If you put it up, people will not come. It’s not just magic. It takes some publicity.” Kaplinsky said that teachers who are interested in participating should personally reach out to colleagues and invite them in for some feedback.
According to Kaplinsky, the #ObserveMe movement works much better when it’s “not a top-down, mandated thing but rather a grass roots teacher led movement.”
He finalized his thoughts with this, “As educators, we all have an intrinsic desire for connections and relationships. If we work by ourselves, we are screwed. [#ObserveMe] should be a learning experience for everyone.”