contributed by Jason Lange
It’s nerve-racking to have someone watch you, especially while you work. So it’s no surprise that classroom observations cause anxiety for many teachers. While things run smoothly most of the time, teachers may worry that Murphy’s Law will reign once an observer steps into the classroom.
Teachers sometimes question the evaluator’s level of expertise. And as principals are drawn into more administrative roles, teachers question whether they have the focus for making accurate assessments, especially considering all of the logistic, operational, and disciplinary tasks at hand.
Observer bias, as a recent report suggests, is another anxiety producer. Observers tend to give higher marks to teachers who have the best-performing students and penalize those who lead struggling classrooms.
With all of these thoughts swirling, even the most effective teacher can stumble during an observation. But there are a few things a teacher can do to diminish the likelihood of this happening. The key is to be prepared, welcome feedback, and use it to build a better classroom.
Teacher Observation? 7 Tips For A Better Outcome
1. Visualize success
There are a number of things you can do to soothe stage fright.
First, shift the focus away from your fear to your true purpose: delivering a lesson to your audience. You have to forget about what could go wrong, focus on reassuring thoughts, and visualize success. Prepare your lesson in advance, and read it aloud to get a sense of your voice.
2. Connect with students
Once it’s time to deliver the lesson, connect to your audience with smiles and greetings. Remain open, use confident posture, and make eye contact. Just be yourself. Above all else, remember that no one is perfect, and it’s OK to make mistakes.
3. Reach out to observers ahead of time if possible
Be proactive. Before the observation, you should prepare some ‘look for’ questions. This way, your administrator will know that you’re seeking genuine feedback. For example, if you know that you tend to rush through instructions, you should ask the administrator to watch for that and pinpoint areas for improvement.
This sort of feedback delivers authentic growth.
Keep things simple. Observation day is not the time for a video, test, or lengthy writing prompt. Just keep it simple, and deliver a solid lesson. Elaborate plans, such as a skit or student debate, can easily go wrong. Plus, they don’t really highlight your instructional skills.
5. ‘Ignore’ observer
Don’t let your observer become a distraction. Choose an unobtrusive place for your observer to sit before the session takes place. Be sure to provide the administrator with a copy of the lesson plan so he can follow along.
6. Specify takeaways
Reap the benefits. After the observation, don’t simply skim the administrator’s notes. Ask questions about anything you don’t understand or agree with; then, create an action plan for improvement. This plan should address areas in which you want to improve, the timeframe for the improvement, and metrics that can be used for determining success. Use SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
7. Focus on student actions, not teacher actions
Focus less on what you’re going to do, and more on what students will be doing–and make sure there is a clear relationship between activities and learning objectives.
The time and effort it takes to plan a lesson are only useful if you can determine whether the lesson was successful. An outside observer can be invaluable for highlighting where a lesson was most effective or where it derailed. The “plan, teach, reflect” cycle of improvement is key to supporting teacher growth.
No one likes to be told that they’re doing something wrong, but a good observer can provide an outside vantage point from which to pinpoint opportunities for growth that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.
If done properly, the point of a classroom observation isn’t to judge; rather, it will help you develop as a teacher so you can help your students succeed. It can be an uncomfortable process to get used to, but once you learn to calm your nerves and see the benefits, it can be an invaluable tool.
Jason Lange is the CEO and co-founder of BloomBoard, a company dedicated to bettering the K-12 education space by providing a marketplace for personalizing educator development. BloomBoard uses the data collected from free observational and evaluation tools to create individualized learning plans and recommendations for teacher growth; image attribution flickr user ijirkamatusetek; Looming Teacher Observation? 7 Tips For A Better Outcome