Radar is out term for your capacity to see your class accurately for what it is. It’s a critical teaching skill. Decision-making always starts with perception–the more accurate the perception the better the decision.
The psychologist David Berliner has studied this among teachers and found that novice teachers observing a classroom often fail to perceive them accurately. They see random or illusory details. Veterans literally see the room more accurately. This is a key part of their expertise.
A related skill is something we call Be Seen Looking. The idea is that being observed changes people’s behavior.
This short blog post and video show pretty clearly how that works.
If you can use understated nonverbal moves to subtly remind students that you are aware of their decisions in the classroom, they will likely choose more wisely and more productively. You will keep off task behavior from happening.
To have some fun with this idea we often name the non-verbals teachers use for this “Dance Moves” because, well, you’ll see why in a minute.
Want to see some examples? [Of course you do.] Want to see them in high school classrooms in particular??? You got it.
Here’s a short montage of Denarius Frazier and Sadie McCleary rocking two great moves. Denarius is using the disco finger. Sadie is using the QB (or quarterback)
To use the Disco Finger, a teacher traces the track of his or her gaze with an outstretched finger– a bit like one of the killer disco moves you may recall using back in the day.
It intimates, “Let me just check all of these places; let me just make sure everyone’s on point.” And it makes your scanning obvious to those who are least likely to notice it (but maybe would benefit from it most).
Anyway, notice the casual understated elegance of Denarius’ Disco Finger. Just a hint offers the reminder. You don’t need or want to over do it. Especially with high school students.
On the other hand he also adds a wrinkle to his disco finger, making its movement peak a bit to suggest that he is looking every where–especially perhaps the back of the class.
To use the Quarterback, a teacher makes like an NFL quarterback (QB), who crouching behind center, scans the defense so he understands what’s about to happen. This let’s you confer with individual students while keeping an eye on the whole team.
That’s what Sadie is doing here. She’s having an extended conversation with a student in her Chemistry class. She keeps the conversation going but adds a few scans along the way to keep an eye on everyone else at the same time. And so they know she’s keeping a weather eye out. Again, prevention beats cure.
Notice she’s turned her body to face the rest of the room. Then she offers a few gentle and low-key reminders to students to persist. It’s good to catch it early–to make the fix before it’s a fix and while it’s still really a reminder. Sadie’s tone is perfect too. As quiet and supportive as possible, it directs them to the thing to do as opposed to describing the thing to avoid doing.
Her student in the back row gets the attention she needs but everyone else remains accountable and on-track.
Ok, people. Get out there and use those moves.