Some of us have been in school for awhile, for others its only been a couple of weeks, but whenever you started, it’s almost that time of year again: observation time. I’ll admit that this time used to strike fear into my normally confident teacher heart. I’ll even admit to still having twinges after more than two decades of teaching, but I don’t worry nearly as much as in the past.
Don’t put on a dog and pony show. Don’t try to come up with an over-the-top, can’t-be-beat lesson. Simply teach whatever you would have taught, in the way you would have taught it, if there were no observation. In a nutshell, pretend the administrator/evaluator isn’t even in the room.
First, it’ll make your life easier. Teachers have far too much to do already. I don’t know about you, but I simply don’t have the time or energy to come up with an elaborate lesson for no reason other than someone’s going to be watching. Do I sometimes teach what might be classified as elaborate lessons? Yes, but I plan them well in advance, prepare the students ahead of time, and schedule them when they’ll make the greatest impact in student learning.
Second, I barely have time to teach as it is and don’t need one more thing disrupting our learning schedule. Between state testing, fire drills, assemblies, field trips, snow days, and the myriad of other interruptions to our learning schedule, the last thing I need is one more thing delaying or changing our lessons.
Third, students of all ages are highly routine dependent. If you haven’t already figured this out, you haven’t been teaching long. Change one thing in the routine and it’s quite possible your students will react as though the world has suddenly started orbiting in the opposite direction. This is more of an issue for younger students than older, but even in the upper grades you’ll have students that do not deal well with change (and those that will suddenly call out, “Why aren’t we doing it how we normally do?” or something similar). A change in routine or procedure, or the introduction of a new activity, can also result in confusion. Students may not be reacting badly to the change, and may not want to make your life more difficult, but doing anything for the first time makes it more likely for things to go less than smoothly. Sticking to the familiar greatly lowers your chances of disaster.
Fourth, your administrator is likely already familiar with how you teach. Few administrators shut themselves up in the office all day. Most administrators can be found all over the school dealing with problems, talking to students, helping a teacher, and just generally being present. As they move about the building they observe what is going on in each room they pass. Long before an administrator enters a classroom for an observation, he/she already has a sense of whether or not the teacher is a good teacher. He/she also already has a sense of what type of classroom environment he/she will be entering. So even if you put together that perfect lesson, nothing goes wrong, and no students call you out, it’s highly probable your administrator will know things weren’t “normal.”
Bottom line: trust yourself and your abilities as a teacher. When it’s your turn to be observed, just do what you do best–educate! Things are much more likely to go well for everyone if you simply stick to your normal plans and routines. If they don’t go as perfectly as you’d hoped, it’ll be OK, your administrator will understand (he/she has taught a bad lesson or two in the past, too).