The Power of Observation

March 8, 2008

Every month, I submit a report to administration about computer lab usage. With last month’s report, I included a request that my observation be scheduled for this coming Thursday. That’s the day that My Friend’s English 11 classes start coming to the lab to work on their Personal Anthologies – a project that takes the place of a final exam.

I have been heavily involved with this project since its inception. (I even graded them from home last year when I was out on disability – out of boredom, and as a favor to My Friend.) A significant amount of time is spent preparing for the initial visit to the computer lab. I designed a packet on how to create a Works Cited page, and another one advising which online databases to use for each component of the Personal Anthology.

Requirements include a Table of Contents, a novel, two short stories, three poems, four articles (one magazine, one newspaper, one Internet and one Professional Journal), three visuals (one piece of artwork, one cartoon, one graph/chart), song lyrics, a movie and a Works Cited page. Each of the components has to relate to a theme of the student’s choosing.

This project has always been tough, but it is even more difficult now because most of the Internet has been blocked. Students only have access to the online databases and a handful of websites that have been deemed acceptable. Unfortunately, the available resources will not satisfy the requirements for the visuals, lyrics and movies. Students will have to search for those things from home if they have a computer, or go to the public library if they do not.

Anyway, the first computer lab lesson is the one I put my heart and soul into. I hand out the packets, and use an LCD projector to show the students how to search the databases, as well as how to identify the information that is necessary to build a Works Cited page. That is why I wanted to be observed on this particular day. No other Teaching Assistant in the building does anything even remotely similar to this.

Yesterday morning, the Assistant Principal in charge of Teaching Assistants informed me that “it’s not gonna happen.” He went on to explain that he has other observations scheduled for that day, and won’t be able to get to me for a few more weeks. My heart sank. In a few weeks, I won’t be doing anything that showcases my skills the way this lesson does.

It did make me feel good, though, when Mr. AP said that he liked that I showed initiative by contacting him in reference to scheduling my observation instead of waiting for him to get in touch with me. He said it was “proactive.” Still, that’s not going to do me a whole lot of good when it comes down to my actual observation. Sigh.

I’m considering preparing a list of the things I do that are not in my job description, such as copy editing the school newspaper every month. (That takes a long time, and I often work on it from home.) I also do a fair amount of proofreading for English teachers, especially letters of recommendation for students applying to colleges. This year, I’ve taken on an additional proofreading duty. Teachers are now sending students to me to look over their college essays. I don’t mind doing these things, but it would be nice to get some credit for them


I have a busy morning ahead of me. At 10:00, I’m scheduled for a one hour massage, thanks to the gift certificate I got for Christmas. Then, at 11:30, I have an appointment to have my hair colored and cut. The massage therapist works out of the beauty salon, so I’ll be there for a while.

When I get home, I have to work on our taxes. I used two different online services and came up with two significantly different results. So, I have to painstakingly go over everything to try to find where I might have made an error in entering information.

I was also supposed to go for blood work this morning, but when I checked the hours I saw that the lab doesn’t open until 8:00. I’ve been up since 5, and can’t go that long without coffee. I’m hoping the lab will be open on Good Friday so I can do it then. (There’s no school that day.)

Have a good weekend.

Song of the Day: The Observation by Donovan

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8 Responses to “The Power of Observation”

  1. Would there be a way for you to tape that lesson? Then you could at least show it to the Principal.

  2. LA said

    I am so proud of you! It’s great you are being a good advocate for yourself. Something too many people don’t know how or are afraid to do and they end up feeling overlooked and unappreciated.

    As for the salon treatments…ahhhh. Hope you come home relaxed and well coiffed. Mwah! ~LA

  3. I think Mary hit on a good idea. Maybe you can get it videotaped so that he can see just what it is you did for this project. Also, maybe you can get the teachers or students that you help (as well as the school paper editor) to write letters stating what all you do for them. It can’t hurt and since the principal can’t really “see you in action” as it were, he will get an idea of all that you really do on a regular basis.

    Enjoy your massage and salon trip…Steph time…yay!!!

  4. Jim said

    You could write up a memo in which you document all of the things you do, a report to management on your activities and accomplishments for academic year 2007-2008. (Frankly, I think that in most situations management does not really have a clue about half of what their employees are do, so this is a good idea for anyone to do.) See if you can quantify things (they love that) such as “assisted English 11 by developing and delivering two 30-minute presentations on how to search Internet databases. These presentations were delivered to 37 students.” and also statistics such as increased student-hours of usage of computer lab, etc. If your school system has developed a formal mission statement or if the administration has developed any favorite slogans, try to find some way of connecting your activities to their verbiage.

    Yeah, and what Mary said. The video of your presentation is not only something you can use as extra documentation of what you do, you can use it to polish your performance looking forward to when you can nail down an observation commitment for next year.

    Good luck.

  5. I certainly agree that whatever you can do to document all the extra efforts you make in your job should be brought to the attention of your superiors* (and I use that word* loosely) So many of us create and facilitate so things run smoothly and offer even more options to our co-workers and never get any credit for it. You should not be afraid to blow your own horn. No one else will do it and you have earned some recognition for a job well done. Good luck.
    Hope the chiropractor visits are helpful. If you find the right person; it might make a huge difference for you.

  6. I agree with everyone about trying to video tape or documenting. Good luck.

  7. LeAnn said

    I also agree with everyone. You definately should tape your work. Of course you could have your principal subcribe to your blog!!! BTW, it sounds like those English teachers could never make it without you!!! Great job!!

  8. terri t. said

    RYC: Thank you so much. Funny, I often think of YOU reading the same words when I read my essay for the day. Sometimes I feel like I am regurgiating the words in my blog and I don’t put enough of my own feelings into it. Since you read the real source, do you think my blogs are too boring?

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