Yogis Berra’s famous comment in the title of this posting sums up perhaps the most significant finding we have uncovered this year at the Kansas Coaching Project: Video recording is a powerful catalyst for professional learning.  While watching instructional coaches and teachers watch themselves on recordings, we have found again and again they learn in ways they never realized were possible until they saw themselves doing their work.

The learning that comes from watching yourself is not easy, but it is powerful and can be a catalyst for profound personal growth.  I discovered this first-hand when I watched a recording of myself during a one-hour team planning session. I recorded myself with the little camera on my MacBook Pro.  No doubt, knowing I was recording everything, I was on my best behavior.

After the meeting I went to my office and watched the recording from start to finish. If you’ve ever had the experience of hearing yourself on an audio recording, you have an inkling of what watching a video recording of yourself is like except to the power of 10!

I was, to put it mildly, appalled at what I saw. In short, I was a jerk. I cut people off. I hogged the conversation. I didn’t listen, and most troubling, I looked bored while others talked. Watching the recording in the privacy of my office I could feel my face and neck starting to blush, because, truly, I was ashamed.

The recording shook me. I knew that I didn’t want to be like that any more. I told my team members what I had seen, and promised I would try to do better. Now, every month or so I watch myself just to see if I am making any improvements. I also pay much closer attention to my colleagues’ faces to see what impact my words and actions are having on them.

Watching myself was painful, but being blissfully ignorant would have been worse.  At least, I now have a strategy for making improvements.  With a clear picture of reality, I have hope.

My experience is pretty typical of what we see in our studies when others watch recordings of themselves. People have no idea how they look when they do what they do. The video can be positive when people are doing better than they thought. Or it can be painful, when people find themselves to be less effective than they had expected.  Either way, by confronting the brutal facts, as business guru Jim Collins likes to say, we can start the process of learning.

For teachers, recordings are one of the best ways to get better.  Just the act of watching yourself is extremely powerful. However, there are several specific things you can look for while watching yourself to get even better results. I’ll describe four of them–ratios of interaction, questioning techniques, the real learning index, and video study groups–in upcoming postings.