Each year thousands of teachers across the United States are being observed by their principals. This time can be very stressful for teachers, but it doesn’t have to be. We have come up with 15 key tips to help you have a successful teaching observation. If you follow these steps, we are certain that your observation will be a hit!
- Prepare a detailed lesson plan
Every principal wants to see your goals/objectives for the lessons clearly stated. They want to know what resources you plan to use. They want to know how you plan to meet the needs of diverse learners. There also needs to be closure to your lesson. You probably do not write a detailed lesson plan like this on a weekly basis, but this is the time you want to have one ready.
- Have a pre-conference with your principal
It is crucial that you set the stage for your lesson with your principal ahead of time. You want to set up what the principal will be observing. Make sure to include your goal for the lesson, how you plan to accomplish it, and what assessment tool (see below) will you use to make sure the students understand the concept taught. This is also a great time to get some early feedback on your lesson. If the principal offers a suggestion before the lesson is even taught, make sure to use it in your lesson!
- Gather all the necessary materials ahead of time
Make sure that your resources are ready to go the day of the lesson. Nothing shows incompetence more than not being prepared. If it is making copies, rearranging desks, or checking technology, make sure it is ready to go. Also, this is a great time to write the learning target, or “I can” statement on the board so the students and principal can see it displayed in the classroom.
- Plan for the unexpected
It always happens. Technology fails, a student is disruptive, or the students don’t get the concept. Have a back-up plan ready to go. If technology is a main component of your lesson, you need to have something else ready to go that will fit your lesson’s objective. When a student is disruptive make sure to use the school’s behavior policy. If the students don’t understand the concept, have alternative ways to teach the concept ready to go. Being prepared is better than looking like a deer lost in the headlights.
It is a great idea to rehearse the lesson ahead of time. Whether it be a professional athlete, or even a firefighter, all people need practice. You want to be a gold medal teacher so make sure you have put in the time to make your lesson worthy of first place on the podium.
- Get adequate sleep
This may be hard for some, but coming into your observation day tired is not a good idea. We all know the kinds of school days we have when we are short on sleep. Try the best you can to get at least seven hours of sleep the night before. It will make a difference in your attitude and your stamina during the school day.
- Eat something for breakfast
You want to have fuel in your system before being observed. Some may have nervous stomachs, but going on empty is not a good way to go. You are more apt to be cranky, short on temper, and also your stomach could make some funny noises during your observation. It is best to eat something ahead of time.
- Teach with confidence
It is easy to tell when a teacher is not confident in a lesson. There is hesitation, there is panic, there is a worried look on a teacher’s face. Don’t let this be you! Know your lesson frontwards and backwards. Practice it the night before and day of the observation in your mind. Be the teacher you know you can be. Confidence is something all good teachers have.
- Involve the students
No principal wants to see you teach the whole time. You need to make your lesson interactive and engaging for the students. Include strategies such as think-pair-share, or cooperative groups to name a few. Have your students give non-verbal whole class responses such as fist to five or thumbs-up and thumbs-down. Those non-verbal signals are easy for both you and the principal to see who is engaged in the lesson. Do not single students out. If there aren’t volunteers, don’t force someone to be one! Find creative ways to get your students involved and engaged in the lesson.
- Go with the flow
If the students are getting the concepts keep moving on. If they are stuck, put on the brakes and figure out what is holding them back. Being able to be flexible and adjust your lesson on the fly is the sign of a great teacher. Being able to read your students is a fundamental necessity when teaching. So if the lesson changes mid-stream, don’t panic! Adapt and continue instruction.
- Make sure to have some form of assessment
Always have some form of assessment at the end of the lesson. It doesn’t have to be a worksheet! It could be an exit slip, a graffiti wall (students write on chart paper hanging on your classroom walls), or even a round-table discussion followed by a questionnaire about what they learned. Your principal will want to see how the students met the lesson’s goal.
- Be a reflective practitioner
As soon as the principal is gone and you have a break, make sure to write down a few things: what went well, what didn’t and what would you change if you taught the lesson again, and any other notes that you have. Take those notes with you to your post-conference. Your principal will be impressed that you took the time to reflect on the lesson.
- Schedule a post-conference
It is important to be able to de-brief after the lesson with the principal. Make sure to schedule a time that is within a day or two of the observation. You and the principal both want the lesson fresh in your minds. Showing initiative that you want to meet to discuss the lesson shows that you value the principal’s feedback and want to continue to do the best job that you can do.
- Show that you care
You are a teacher because you love teaching and love your students. Make sure that is evident in your post-conference. Do not bad talk students. Show the principal that you are there for them and want to be the best teacher that those students have ever had. Effort means a lot to principals, but so does empathy and compassion.
- Take constructive feedback positively
If your principal offers suggestions to improve the lesson, or your teaching, please take it constructively. Do not get defensive! Principals want to see all of their staff improve, and no one, we repeat no one is a perfect teacher.
Please review these tips the next time you are going to be observed by your principal. We are sure that they will help you have a successful experience!