It’s that time of year. The anxiety of your annual review is upon you. For nearly all of us, this means a classroom observation with your coordinator or director. Being watched, critiqued and hovered over is something that most of us do not want to deal with. Invading your classroom, your lessons, and deciding on whether you are “professional,” is daunting. But a necessary evil, the classroom observation is one that most of us are bound to endure. Here’s how to nail it!
1. Plan in Advance!
You know you will be having an observation, but you don’t know when. Have your lessons ready in advance. You know it’s coming, so be ready for when it does. Have lessons a few weeks out.
If you are among the few lucky ones that know when they will be observed, GREAT! Get your lessons in order and offer to share them with your director in advance. Let them review and critique early. Chances are, he or she will be impressed with your proactive approach.
2. Dress Professionally
It’s easy to start getting a little lackadaisical about your wardrobe this time of year. You’re on the downward slide into summer (hard to believe I know), and you may have begun to slack on your professional attire. But this is an imperative step. “Dress for success” is an obnoxiouscliché I’m going to throw in here. Whether or not you know when you will be observed, you should always dress the part. When you put time to dress professionally, everyone notices. Your students, colleagues and admin will take you for the seriously awesome teacher that you are!
3. Talk to Your Staff
Many special education teachers have other staff members in their classroom. At any given time, I may have up to 5 support and related service personnel. It’s important to make sure everyone is on the same page. A few weeks before your observation, forewarn the staff in your classroom that you will most likely be observed in the upcoming weeks. Inform them that admin will be coming in to observe you and that schedules may have to change during that day. It is also good to be on the same page about safety procedures and how to handle students in crisis. Reviewing these procedures will be especially important if you end up needing to remove a student due to safety concerns.
4. Make the Goals Known
This step is as much for you as the students and your director. When creating your lesson plans, make sure that you know what the end goal is. Write the goal, learning objective, etc on the lesson plan. When presenting to the class tell them what they will be learning about and what they should be able to take away from the lesson. This will help you stay on track, alleviate anxiety for your students, and help give your director an idea of what to look out for.
5. Engage Students
Your director will want to see you engaging your students. If you know what day you will be observed, choose your lesson wisely. Choose something that is not completely new for your students, but will intrigue them as well. A well-planned lesson is crucial to decreasing the likelihood for frustrations, disengagement and meltdowns.
Don’t know when your director will be coming?
That’s okay too! Keep your students engaged by teaching using various sensory modalities, asking pertinent questions, and checking-in.
6. Be Flexible
If things start to go awry and you get off track, don’t stress. Show your director that you are flexible. Being able to change gears quickly and switch things up on the fly is most likely not new to you. Continue with the lesson and the planned goals. Keep the end goal in mind, and don’t worry about how you get there. In the long run, your director will be more impressed with how you continued to keep students engaged and learning while they choose the path. Special education is always precarious, so your ability to change up your lesson plan while still meeting your goals is an invaluable facet of your personality. And your director will see you as a cherished resource for the school and your students.
Smiling releases feel-good endorphins. So, do it! Smiling will make you feel better and will make you less stressed. Smile and smile often. Your students will respond positively and your director will enjoy seeing a classroom of smiling faces.
Okay, so there it is!
7 Ways to Tackle Your Teacher Observation.
Now, take a breath and grab it by the horns! You’ve got this!