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Thursday, November 17, 2016

10 Tips to Get You Through your Next Observation

The Teacher's Toolbox
Miss Trunchbull - Matilda
Here it comes again. The dreaded observation. The day we all look forward to: teaching while your administrator watches you for an hour. What could be more fun?

After 17 years of teaching, I don't get nervous about it. I just get prepared. As prepared as I can be, because the problem is, kids will be kids and will do the craziest things when you least expect it. 

Here's my advice for observation time... and please don't rely on my opinions here to get you through your observation. ANYTHING can happen. If you suddenly find POOP on the floor while your principal is in the room, and nobody will claim it (yes, it happened to me), I'm sorry about your luck. Don't say I didn't warn you.  
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1. Get the requirements done. If you have a checklist, be sure to have everything checked off on that list. If you know ahead of time that there are certain things they are looking for, make sure you have it. This is a no-brainer. Lesson plans complete, learning scales up, objectives posted... get all of that done and out of the way so you can focus on a great lesson. 

2. For heaven's sake, clean up your mess! There's nothing more distracting than a messy room. I don't mean kid-mess. I'm talking about piles of papers. Shove them in a closet. Clear your desk, tables and counters. At least pretend to be organized! You can pull out your piles again later. 

3. Don't try something you've never done before. Your students will be lost, you'll be frustrated, there will be tears. Stick to your routines. There's nothing more pleasing to watch than a classroom that runs like a well-oiled machine. Let your students do what they're used to doing. Whether you know it or not, you have a style and your principal will enjoy watching your style. Just be yourself.  

4. Don't tell your students that your principal is coming! They'll act weird. You'll suddenly have a bunch of robot children staring at the principal and not responding to you. Inevitably, you'll have that one student that says something you don't want them to say like "But you said we'll get extra recess if we're quiet!" Awkward. Let your kids just be. Let your principal see what you deal with on a daily basis, even if it is a little crazy. They need to see the struggling kids and the shining stars and all the little personalities in-between. 

5. Manage your time. Make sure you plan enough to fill the time but manage your time wisely. I hear this all the time: "I didn't get through my whole lesson." "The Principal left before I was done." Watch the clock, move the lesson along, pace your students, remind them of what's next. You can't always time it just right, but try. Plan the 'meat' of your lesson mid-observation so your administrator can see the best part. They'll want to stay if they're enjoying the lesson, too.   

6. Have all of your materials. Run through your lesson in your head before the observation. Think about every item you'll need for this lesson. You don't want to be rummaging through drawers looking for that timer you needed or that book you were going to read. Make sure it's all laid out ahead of time. 

7. Test the technology. Bringing technology into your lesson is great. But if there's ever a time it's going to fail, it'll be, you guessed it, during your observation. Have your Smart Board, iPad, computer... ready to go. Test it out before your lesson, have it ready to start and have a back up plan, just in case. 

8. Remember the basics. While you're teaching this great lesson, don't forget about good teaching practices. Wait time, higher-level questioning vs. yes-no questions, circulating or getting down to their level, proximity control for behaviors, differentiating, pairing, cooperative learning... I could go on and on. This is what good teachers do and we do it on a regular basis. But when we're being watched, we get nervous and suddenly we're first-year teachers again. Focus and do what you know how to do.   

9. Turn your cell phone off. Another no-brainer, but so easy to forget. Put it out of sight if it's not supposed to be in sight. If you're at a school where using it in the classroom is okay, put it away anyway. Unless you are using it specifically for your lesson, it probably shouldn't be laying around. Many old-school (traditional) administrators still see that as unprofessional in our profession and this is not the time for that argument. Just put it away. 

10. Smile, and have fun! Remember, a smile is contagious. Happy teacher, happy kids. Have fun with your lesson and just go with the flow if something doesn't go as planned. You will laugh about it later, trust me! I never planned for poop on the floor, but I can definitely laugh about it now. *Read above if you missed that part! :)  

Here's a condensed version of these 10 tips...
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Good luck with your next observation and don't forget to COMMENT with your great tips or funny stories of your own observation mishaps! 
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