Whether you’ve been teaching for two years or 20, you’ll probably agree: Being observed is nerve-racking! How should you act? What should you say? What should you not say? Will your students be on their best behavior? What if they’re not?

Some of TpT’s terrific Teacher-Authors have swooped in to lend a virtual hand with their tried-and-true advice for both planned and surprise observations. Deep breath… you’ve got this.

Countdown to Classroom Observation

Christine Maxwell Hand to HeartChristine Maxwell Hand to Heart recommends taking a video of yourself teaching, prior to the actual evaluation. “Then study the video,” she says, “looking for any distracting mannerisms, habitual gestures, or ways of speaking that can be eliminated. 

This is also a good time to ask a trusted peer to view the recording and provide helpful suggestions. His or her comments may save you from doing something you hadn’t even noticed you were doing.

 After performing this exercise, it seems to make the ‘real evaluation’ less stressful!”

Miss SenoritaMiss Senorita says, “My first couple of years when I was super nervous about my upcoming observations, I would teach my lesson to an empty classroom during my planning period or after school. I’d call on invisible students and commend them for their correct answers; I went through every piece of the lesson! That way, when I was being observed, I felt more comfortable because I’d already taught my lesson at least once before!”

Madame H“If it’s a scheduled observation,” says Madame H, “don’t add a new outfit to your wardrobe. “The last thing that should be on your mind during the evaluation is how your new clothes are too snug or too loose. Pick something you already own and love, and your level of confidence will shine through.”

Day of Classroom Observation

The Science PenguinThe Science Penguin suggests, “Be yourself, and teach how you normally would. If students don’t normally use iPads during reading lessons, don’t throw them in just to check off the technology box. If you don’t normally do stations, don’t start the day of your observation. Do what you and your students are comfortable with and what you usually do. Allow students to be themselves and work through things on their own.”

Blair TurnerBlair Turner says, “When I was a math support teacher,  administrators would often drop by for an unannounced observation. Many times, the students were working in groups, independently puzzling through challenging material. When the administrator entered, I sometimes saw classroom teachers rush up to the board to ‘teach.’ Fight the urge! Your principal will be thrilled to see your students working on their own while you either work with a small group or circulate the room, checking in and prompting deeper thinking. That is teaching, and it’s teaching at its best. Giving your students space to struggle — providing them with the tools they need to persevere without you at the front of the room — is what most administrators are hoping to see.”

Elizabeth Ciavarella“Allow your students to shine,” says Elizabeth Ciavarella. “They are a reflection of you. Don’t take over the lesson as though you’re the one on display. Instead, allow time for discussions, partner talk, or kid talk.”

The Peanut Gallery“Don’t be afraid to have fun,” expresses The Peanut Gallery. “Sometimes we get so nervous during observations that they become ‘all business.’ Your administrator also wants to see the rapport you have with your students. It’s fine to let your principal see how much your students enjoy your class by still doing all of the silly things you would normally do! Joy is contagious, and you might just see your principal smiling and laughing along with you and the class!”

Momma with a Teaching Mission“I would say that it’s important, and yet often forgotten, to include some sort of closure in your lesson,” says Momma with a Teaching Mission. “That’s one thing my administration has noticed our staff is lacking during formal observations. Tie it back to the objective or the ‘I can’ statement. Make the kids accountable. Maybe it’s talking with a partner and choosing a few fairness sticks for some students to share out. Or perhaps it’s just a thumbs-up or thumbs-down when asked ‘Do you think we accomplished our goals for today?'”

When Things Don’t Go Exactly as Planned

The Colorado ClassroomThe Colorado Classroom explains, “Don’t be afraid to go off the path and do what’s best for kids in the moment, even if it’s not what you originally planned. It showcases how versatile you are as an educator. I had an observation last year during which I could tell my students were lost and just not getting the concept. I threw my plan out the window, and we backed up and had a great discussion about what was catching them up and how we could overcome it as a class. We then proceeded, with some new understandings and scaffolding in place. My observer was far more impressed that I could throw things aside and meet the kids where they were at than she cared that I cover the lesson we’d planned on together.

Misty Miller“If you plan on using technology during your observation, have a backup plan for when the technology doesn’t work,” recommends Misty Miller. “Think about it beforehand so you’re prepared.

 Yes, this happened to me on a non-scheduled observation. My internet that I needed for the lesson wasn’t working. We went to plan B.”

Pat Krause“I teach kindergarten, so a fly entering the room can throw everyone off!” says Pat Krause. Have a ‘bag of tricks’ ready just in case. It might be a new game, or a favorite book you know will resonate well with your students. Right now, I have a rain stick, in my bag. This way, if the class gets off track because of some interruption or a child having a meltdown, I pretend I just thought of something I want to show them. My principal was observing one day when a child decided he was leaving. He put on his coat and backpack. I told him I was sad to see him go because I knew he would like what I’d brought to school that day. I pulled something out of my ‘bag’, and he decided to stay. The principal loved the way I remained calm and got the child to return to the group.”

Marisa L WareMW Literacy says, “As cliché as it may sound, just be yourself, and know that things come up. Once I was being observed while teaching a 1st grade reading group. There were four students in the group. Within the first 10 minutes one student had to go to the nurse, another got called down to the office for something, and another had to go to the bathroom. I was left with one student. Not exactly ideal when you have partner work planned, but with some improvising, it worked — and the person observing was more focused on how I handled the unexpected changes than following my actual plan. Being observed is not about putting on a show of what you’d like your experience to be, but rather learning to hone your own craft as a teacher and be the best you can be in any teaching situation.”

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