In case you don't know what the term means (you probably do) teaching in a fishbowl is when your classroom is being observed by other professionals, administrators, colleagues, and stakeholders constantly. Essentially it means that your teaching is always on display. Now, I know you are thinking, "I would hate that!" but I assure you it has its benefits.
When I first started teaching I was part of the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship, which was an intensive master's program that included 3 years of follow up mentoring and support. As a new teacher Ialso had to deal with Ohio's Resident Educator program as well as standard teacher evaluations.
All of this added up to being observed, coached, and supported by 3 different systems. My room became a revolving door of evaluations and observations, and most of my lunch periods became feedback and reflection discussions. I really was teaching in a fishbowl. I know this sounds a little torturous and at the time (especially in the beginning) it was definitely stressful, but it also made me the best possible version of myself as a teacher.
Here are three things I learned from this experience:
1. Accountability makes you better.
This is true for students as well, but accountability for the work you are doing will always make you better. Knowing that someone else will be observing, reflecting, evaluating, or watching what you are doing, makes you take a few extra minutes to think about your instruction, double check your resources, and ensure that your management is on point.
2. Feedback and reflection improve instruction.
I know that those post observation meetings and paperwork can be a hassle. I also know that there are probably way too many of them for new teachers who are dealing with a lot of things on their plate as it is. With this said, taking a purposeful moment to reflect on your lesson, class, instruction, or growth is always a positive thing.
We formatively assess our students all the time, and we have our learners write goals, so why wouldn't we do the same? Reflecting on progress will allow you to think through your lesson or experience from a different perspective. More importantly, it will allow you to adjust, adapt, and improve!
3. Teaching shouldn't change because someone is watching.
The most important thing I learned from teaching in a fishbowl is that my instruction should always be good enough for anyone to watch...anytime.
Whether I was being evaluated or not didn't matter. I had 20 - 30 evaluators in your class every day...my students. At the end of the day, I realized that, in my classroom, the people watching mattered much less than the students learning. So instead of planning for everyone else, I decided I was going to provide the best instruction possible, everyday for my students.
So I challenge you to focus on providing the best instruction possible for your students. If you do this every day, I promise you will stop worrying about what happens the next time someone walks into your room.