5 Ways to ROCK Your Next Observation

It's 3 weeks into school and your principal wants to do your formal observation.  Really?  We can barely transition from reading to math without someone bursting into tears and you want to see a REAL lesson?  No fear, you've got this, put on best smile and say, "Sure! When would you like to come in?"

Whether it's August or April observations always make me nervous.  ALWAYS!  I've been teaching 11 years, you would think they get easier but they just don't.  It's probably because I'm a perfectionist (not) and I want everything to be perfect (not really) but it just makes me feel like I am under a microscope.  Here are my top 5 ways to stop stressing and ROCK your next observation. 

#1 Prepare! 

Really, don't put this off to the last minute.  Think about what skills and procedures you want to highlight in your classroom.  What works really well for you?  Showcase that!  My students are really good at turn and talk by the 3rd week of school so I made sure to include that.  Is it a required lesson?  Put your own spin on it.  I taught a curriculum piece (sight words) from Reading Street but taught my own lesson to go with it.  I spent A LOT OF TIME thinking about it before hand to make sure I was planning something I was comfortable with and that we could be successful with.  

#2  Have what you need at your fingertips

I am the WORST about this in real life.  I need sticky notes?  Oops, they are sitting on my desk all the way across the room.  In real life I walk across the room and grab those sticky notes and just keep on going.  Don't let that happen during an observation because it will make you even more nervous!  Make sure the night before you have everything you need wherever you are going to teach the lesson.  This year I needed our class big book, sticky notes, prepared anchor chart, and a marker.  I put them all behind my easel so I wouldn't have to do the dreaded "search" right in the middle of my lesson.  (PS....this should probably happen every day, but we all know it doesn't!)

#3 Plan an ENGAGING LESSON!

I attempt to make every single lesson engaging.  I teach Kindergarten so if it's not engaging you can just throw everything else right out of the window.  When planning for an observation lesson though I make sure that I include whole group, partner work (turn and talk),  small group, and independent practice.  It's a MUST that we state our objective (throughout the lesson) in our district so I am sure to include that right on my anchor chart so that I don't forget.  Let's face it, if you are nervous you forget things!   I also start the lesson with an engaging activity and refer back to lessons we have already had (to show that we have some background knowledge).  Of course these are all best practices and if they are not part of your normal routine it will looked forced or fake. Be sure you are including things your students have experienced before!

#4  DON'T tell your kids you are being observed.  

Really, it's not necessary.  I honestly don't make a big deal about it.  Our principal is in and out of our classroom on a regular basis so it is not unusual to see her there.  I had a teaching partner a few years ago that would tell the kids they were being observed.....please no.  They don't need any added pressure either!  If you have your routines and procedures in place it shouldn't matter if the President of the United States is at the back of the room watching you. 

#5 Relax! 

Really.  Most principals are not out to "ding" you on your evaluation.  Just be yourself and show how much you enjoy teaching.  Your rapport with the students will shine through if you let it.  If you have prepared before hand you don't have anything to be nervous about.  A couple of teachers and I  had a conversation in the lunch room (yes....I eat there sometimes) about observations and how that ONE kid will always raise their hand and give a totally off topic response.  That's OK....that's real life too.  It happens daily in the Kindergarten classroom and you just nod and smile and keep going in real life right?

Here is the outline for my latest observation.  It went pretty well and I'm thankful I did the extra thinking and planning to make sure I included all the elements I needed.  The lesson went so well I've included it in our weekly routine (for now) because the kiddos seriously won't stop talking about it.  I'm going to run out of sticky notes soon!
  You can see where I have added "a" and "to" to our anchor chart for this week's lesson.  
You can click on the lesson plan to download it!
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bwy_8L1vfUHTT3FtR0xCOXRzWUE/view?usp=sharing
Now I am curious. What is your favorite "off topic" question/comment that happened during a formal observation.  My favorite......I was looking for an answer about sounding out words (or something like that) I get, 
"Tomorrow we are having donuts for breakfast!"
No...I wasn't serving donuts for breakfast the next day. I have no idea what she was talking about!  
Share your favorite in the comments, I'd love to hear them!