Is it just me, or does anyone else sweat when an administrator comes in to observe during your teacher evaluation? I can teach day after day in a classroom full of teenagers, but the moment an adult walks in, I seem to forget what I’m doing.

The other day, in one of the Facebook groups I’m a member of, a new teacher was going to get observed soon, so she asked for some tips.

I was mortified by how many teachers gave her terrible advice! Some were telling her to use tech that she probably had never used before. Others gave her specific lessons to use to promote higher-order questioning.

As I read the comments I kept thinking to myself, “she is probably more nervous now than before she asked for advice.”

From an instructional coach and an administrator’s perspective, it is obvious when a teacher is putting on a dog and pony show. We can look around the room and the students will give you away. If they are being asked to do things they never have before, they will usually call you out. And, it will probably be while we’re in there. 

Today, we’re going to talk about teacher observations and evaluations. First, I want to give you a little behind the scenes from an administrator’s perspective. Next, we’ll talk about how you deserve to have feedback on your teaching. Finally, we’ll go over some questions that I ask students every time I observe a class and how you can use those questions in your planning.

Observations and evaluations from an instructional coach and new administrator’s perspective

As a new administrator, I want to let you know that most of us don’t enjoy doing evaluations. We love being in classrooms and being instructional leaders–but the evaluation part is not fun.

I’ve actually turned my “evaluations” into coaching cycles and a lot of administrators are doing the same. We are getting more and more training in coaching and many of us have coaching backgrounds.

I tell you that so that you won’t be as afraid to have us in your classrooms. 

Hopefully, your administrators are in your classrooms frequently. Those unannounced, frequent drop-ins are more telling than any formal evaluation. The majority of the time my formal observation is just that–a formality.

You deserve feedback

Like your students, you deserve frequent feedback on how you are doing. How else are you going to know if you are on track to meet your goals if you don’t have anyone to collaborate with or track data?

This next statement may be a little controversial. I’m coming from the perspective that administrators want teachers to succeed.

If you are not getting observed frequently, go have a conversation with your administrator. You deserve to have an honest teacher evaluation and not one comprised of a single visit to your classroom.

When Jared, my welding teaching husband, was in his first year of teaching he had a terrible evaluation. He was mid-lecture and kids throwing pencils in the ceiling. Then they were jumping off their desks trying to get their pencils out of the ceiling. 

As he tells the story now, he says that they were exceptionally off-task that day. That may be true, but my guess is that the classroom was out of control a lot of the time.

This evaluation was the first time that an administrator had been in his class all year–and it was the third term. During his post-evaluation, the administrator gave him the ultimatum that he either improve his classroom management, or he may not be back next year. 

What?!? This still makes my blood boil even though it was more than 12 years ago. 

Administrators are school leaders, just like you are the leaders of your classroom. They are there to help and support teachers in their growth and progress.

If they are not coming in frequently, invite them in and let them know of a goal you are working on, and ask them to collect data. While this can still be nerve-wracking, the feeling is different because the observation is on your terms. This is also a great way to use an instructional coach.

Questions to ask as you prepare and reflect on lessons

Now that you know that administrators enjoy being in classrooms and that they should be there, here’s how you prepare for your lessons each day. Notice how I didn’t say, “prepare for your teacher evaluation.” 

You’re going to prepare every lesson as if you are getting observed. We’re not talking dog and pony, we’re talking great teaching.

Every time I observe a class I ask a student these three questions that I first heard from Adam D. Drummond:

  • What are you learning today?
  • How do you know that you know “it”?
  • How does your teacher know that you know “it”?

Let’s look at these a little more closely.

What are you learning today?

If someone were to come into your classroom at any moment, would they get an idea of what your objective is? This means without it being written on the board. Your students should be able to explain this easily and in terms that they understand.

How do you know that you know “it”?

Is there a way that students can self-check? Can they work with a neighbor? Having students feel and recognize that success will make them more confident in themselves.

How does your teacher know that you know “it’?

Plan how you want them to let you know that they’ve mastered or at least understood the objective. Is this going to be a deliverable? Do they do self-reporting? There’s not a “right” answer, but they should be able to answer this without a shoulder shrug.

Key Takeaways

As a review, administrators are there to support you and want you to grow as a teacher, but they can only do that if they are in your classroom. You also deserve frequent observation and feedback even if you are the one leading the conversation. And finally, plan each lesson as if you are being observed by thinking through your objective and how students will demonstrate their learning.

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