A teaching observation is part of the checks and balances that ensures teaching and learning are occurring in the classroom. Whether you’re in year one or year twenty-five, you have to go through this process. This may inspire you to show off your skills, but it may also cause anxiety for some. Fortunately, teaching observations are nothing new, and many teachers make it through just fine. But when you are unprepared for your formal or informal observations, you place yourself in harm’s way and ultimately affect the children you teach.
There is one line from a principal that sums up observations for me. When I asked her how principals felt about observations, her response was surprising. She enjoys watching teachers work. And the only thing that ever worries her is when a teacher has had a number of days to prepare and red flags pop up during the observation. Below are some things you can do to prepare for an observation and get the most from it. Avoid the red flags so you can become a better teacher and your students can learn more efficiently.
Put It Into Perspective
A teaching observation is a formal way of obtaining feedback on your teaching. Just as you assess your students to see how they are learning, so too are you assessed by your school district. An observation is nothing more than a constructive set of facts. It is not a judgement on you as a person or whether you are in the right profession. It is simply meant to provide evidence and data to help you improve.
Know Your Observation Format
Observations are not a secret formula. The format should be very transparent and available to you through your district or via other teachers in your school. Know your evaluation format, what the evaluation process is, the deadlines for lesson plans and other documents, how long the observation lasts, what they look for, and anything else to help you better prepare. In addition, know the criteria you will be evaluated on and what that criteria looks like for a distinguished teacher. In addition, know where to get all the documents you may need for the process, including lesson plan templates. The more you know, the clearer you can understand the expectations and more accurately prepare. Learning this lies directly in your hands.
If you know when your observation is and with whom, reach out to those it will touch. Let the teacher of the class you will be teaching know about your observation so they can be on time and talk with the students about behavior and learning expectations. Speak to the students and let them know that someone is coming to make sure you are doing your job and that they are learning. This sends a clear message to the students that you are being held accountable for your job as they are for their work. And you set an example of what life is like in the real world where adults get evaluated for their work. Moreover, communicate with anyone else who might need to know about your observation and can help support you in your preparation.
Practice and Prepare in Pieces
When preparing for the observation, take your time to get it right. Give yourself time to write the lesson, prepare any materials, set up equipment, and any other related tasks. As part of your preparation, practice your observation lesson. Visualize it in your head and try it with a different class. This lets you work out any kinks. Remember, this is your job. Put the effort and time required into preparation so you show that you know how to do your job properly. Don’t let outside distractions or non-urgent priorities stop you from preparing as you should, even if you have to put in extra time. Taking care of your main source of income is pretty important.
Again, the process of being observed is to help you learn how to become a better teacher. In this vein, be honest with your supervisor about any potential concerns or things you want them to look for in your observation. Not only does this show you are willing to grow, but it helps you get the most out of your observation. This also means not bribing the students to ensure they behave. If your principal is in the room, the children may behave a little better. But be sure to let your principal see things as they are. The more honest you are in your concerns and teaching, the more you can improve. Staging an observation is shallow, and at the end of the day, you learn nothing and the students do not get a better teacher. Plus, principals can tell when you are staging something. In the end, it is just poor observation behavior.
There is a lot to consider when it comes to observations. From attending meetings and planning lessons to completing paperwork and executing lessons, it can all be overwhelming. Observations can cause a range of emotions. But if you look at them as an opportunity to grow from feedback based on data, they can become less scary. And by preparing properly, including communicating with those involved, knowing your observation format, and taking the time to prepare, you will be ready to go come observation day! In the end, you may be surprised at how helpful the entire process is for you as a teacher and for your students as learners.
In my opinion, you cannot get better without objective feedback from others. Just as we wouldn’t expect our students to not be assessed and hope they are learning, teachers shouldn’t expect to be left to learn on their own and hope they will become better. Observations are a key part of the process to becoming better at our craft and gaining more respect for physical education as a whole.
About the Author:
Charles Silberman is a physical education and health teacher with 14 years of teaching experience. He has become a leader and advocate for incoming physical educators by running workshops on teaching in limited space at staff in-services and conferences, assisting with new teacher orientations, and other initiatives. He has experience writing curriculum from scratch and writing published information specific to physical education in state and nationally recognized publications and websites. Charles has also created a niche as a physical education specialist who fuses technology and primary instructional subjects into physical education lessons.