How to Prepare for Your Next (or Your First) Classroom Observation

With teacher evaluations becoming a reality in many states, the classroom observation has taken on more importance than ever. What was once a formality or, at best, an informal tool for administrator assessment of staff, has now become nerve-racking, handwringing experience that may impact your job security.

Tip #1: Type up a lesson and include ALL of the necessary components.

My lesson plans in year 15 of my career don’t resemble my lesson plans from year 3 of my career. After being in this profession for so long, there are a lot of components of my lesson that I incorporate automatically, so I don’t bother to include lesson plan sections such as key questions, medial summary, and vocabulary words. But I would never walk into a pre-observation without a fully realized and prepared lesson plan.

Tip #2: Don’t over prepare.

A common mistake among those being observed is to try to do too much in order to make an impression. Packing in different methods, tons of content, and numerous activities into one lesson tells your observer that you’re presenting an atypical lesson. Keep it simple, and use what works for you in a usual lesson.

Tip #3:  Don’t go outside of your comfort zone or do anything that can backfire.

If your students do not behave well in groups, do not put them in groups. If you are a more traditional teacher, don’t become a modern dynamo on observation day. If you can help it, don’t do anything that you cannot completely control. Internet connections go down. Guest speakers run late. You Tube takes down copyrighted videos all of the time.

Tip #4: Schedule your observation for late in the day with a subject you teach more than once per day.

There’s nothing wrong with a dress rehearsal to fix any mistakes or oversights. If you’re given the option to choose when you are observed, give yourself a chance to teach it once before you teach it in front of an administrator.

Tip #5: Put the best version of you on display.

Figure out what it is that you do best, and do it well on observation day. Bells and whistles, buzz words, and technology don’t make you a good teacher. Your personality, dedication, content knowledge, and interaction with students are what will impress any administrator worth his or her salt.

I am preparing for my first observations in seven years. These observations will comprise of 60% of my year end evaluation that will rate me as highly effective, ineffective, or somewhere in between. I’m not nervous, but I will be careful to follow the rules above to ensure that I put forth a good representation of who I am in the classroom.

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