Classroom observations can be one of the most stressful part of teaching. It’s not just the observation, but the anticipation of it happening. The surprise as someone walks through the door just as you are getting ready to give that spelling test. Heightened senses where every sound your students make is 400 decibels louder than normal.
Then, the whispers begin. The roaming the halls, peeking into classroom rooms.
So, how do you conquer this fear? Well, to be honest, I got over it in my 12th year of teaching. I got my first (and only) unsatisfactory observation.
Yep, a big FAT U!
I have a list of excuses I could tell you on why I got that, but the real deal is I just wasn’t prepared. My walls weren’t telling my classroom story, and the administrator had no clue what else was happening in my room outside of that moment.
So what did I do?
After an afternoon sob session, a Google search of other possible careers, and a glass of wine and chocolate, I got back up and revamped. I made sure that there was more to tell the story of my classroom than just the 30-45 minute visit. Here is what I decided!
Classroom Observations Prep Step 1: Can the Walls Talk?
Are your walls a functional part of your classroom room? This is the part of the observation many people forget. Sure, the walls may be cute and Pinterest perfect. But, can they tell your students and observers what’s happening in the classroom?
A Quick Check:
- Is important and current vocabulary, essential questions, daily schedule, and objectives clearly posted?
- Do your work samples on bulletin boards show a variety of learning outcomes? Is everything the same or do the samples show differentiation?
- Do centers have explanations and a focus written out?
- Do your bulletin boards inside and outside of the classroom have a short explanation and standard listed?
Classroom Observations Prep Step 2: Do you have an Observatory?
Is there a place for observers to sit and work? This doesn’t have to be dead space. It can make a great work station for students who need or want some personal space when observers aren’t in the classroom.
What to Put in an Observatory:
- Your Portfolio: I will go into WAY more details in the section below on this.
- Writing Tools: Add some of your favorite pens, pencils, and note pads.
- Photographs: Put a few framed pictures of photos on the way close by that really showcase great moments in your teaching.
- Comfy Seating near an outlet
- A treat – put a bowl of candy or snacks.
- Map of the classroom with explanations of what the observer would find. (Ex. Where is your dismissal chart, class jobs, read aloud list, centers, materials, and other key places.) This way the observer knows where to find everything.
Grab your FREE Observation Ready Checklist!
Classroom Observations Prep Step 3: Can Your Portfolio Talk?
What to Put in the Portfolio:
- A Welcome Letter
- Lesson Plans – Put your plans from the previous week in. Do you have an entire unit planned out, make an extra copy to stick in.
- Assessments – Current grade book sample, examples or photos of a variety of assessments used, a copy of a study guide and unit test.
- Photos! Photos! Photos!
- Copy of your Classroom Management Plan
- Sample of emails from parents, and volunteers
- Communication Log
- List and Photo of what you send home each week
- Record of any professional development
Classroom Observations Prep Step 4: Stay ahead of the game!
Each day before you leave make sure that you have the following done:
- Get your homework posted for the next day. If you have it ready for students to copy in the morning, then they know what to expect and you won’t have a crazy observation at the end of the school day.
- Write out essential questions and objectives, (Whatever your school requires to be posted each day).
- You desk or work space is organized and ready for you to start in the morning.
- Do a quick check of your classroom. Is the room ready for students to walk in and start in the morning?
- Have your lesson plans ready and printed. (It amazes me how often I get observed just as we are starting a test. If you have your plans out then they can see what else you are doing throughout the day.)
- Use Mystery Students to have amazing behavior. Read this article on Mystery Students. Tell your students that you will have a mystery student anytime that someone is in the room (parent, administration, etc.) and if the mystery student does what is expected, then the entire class will get a reward!
- Take time to reflect each day. Need some guidance? Try this Teacher Reflection. It’s number 7 on the list!
- Create a QR code or PDF with links to any online resources you use that may give a clearer picture of your classroom (ex. google photo album, a drive document with lesson plans, or samples in your portfolio they may not have time to read, etc.)
Grab your Copy of the Checklist here!
Want more? Try these resources or check out my Classroom Management Page.