Most of the time when teachers are teaching, the only ones in the classroom are the students. When someone else, like a principal, department chair or another administrator, comes to observe, it can feel intimidating. Here are some suggestions to help plan for and have a positive experience while participating in a formal observation.
First and most importantly, realize that your observer is in your corner and wants you to be successful. Don’t be afraid to ask them if there’s anything in particular they would like to see. If there’s a strategy that the whole staff is working on or a new program being implemented, that might be a good choice. Whatever you ultimately choose to do, try to design a lesson that you’ll be comfortable teaching and that is typical for how you teach. Do not create a three-ring circus that’s inconsistent with what your classroom is usually like.
As you plan your lesson, be mindful of any previous feedback you’ve previously received. This will demonstrate your ability to take feedback and use it for improvement. Be sure that you are 100% clear about what you want your students to know, be able to do and understand as a result of your lesson.
Strive to create a lesson plan that puts the students at the center of their learning. Administrators are typically eager to see lessons that provide for student choice, discourse and, most importantly, meaning-making. Make sure that your lesson is relevant and cognitively engaging, and that your students know why they’re doing what they’re doing.
When you develop your lesson plan, be sure to use your district’s form or format. Likely you’ll need to be able to point to which standards your lesson addresses. Be sure to respond to all of the questions, prompts or sections of the lesson plan document. If you have a mentor, ask them to read your lesson plan and give you feedback on it. Submit it in advance of your pre-observation conference.
Typically, you’ll meet with your observer a day or two before the observation. Be prepared to explain why you’re doing what you’re doing and then be a good listener when the observer asks questions or offers suggestions. Remember, they want you to succeed so those questions and suggestions are intended to help you. After the pre-conference is over, consider the conversation you had and try to incorporate any suggestions that the observer offered.
When it’s time for the observation to take place, offer the observer a place to sit where they can make notes and won’t be in the way of the lesson. Take a long, slow deep breath to calm your nerves and then try to forget the observer is there. Just enjoy your students and teach!
After the lesson, be prepared to share your reflection in the post-observation conference. If you were going to teach the same lesson tomorrow, what would you do differently and why? Also be prepared to truly listen to the feedback you receive. The best response to feedback is always, “Thank you.” Take notes on what the observer says and again, remember, they are truly invested in your success.
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