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Teaching Opinion

How to Survive the Pre-Observation Frenzy

By Starr Sackstein — February 09, 2017 3 min read
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The email arrived last night, late. I probably would have missed it altogether had I not noticed it went to my official DOE email:

Hi Please be advised that your Pre-Observation Conference is scheduled for Wednesday Feb 8th Period 5,6, or 7 whichever works for you? I look forward to our conversation and meeting.

There isn’t much to it, but generally despite my confidence as a classroom teacher, knowing that I’m going to be observed creates stress. So when I arrived at work this morning, the mad dash began.

First, I review my lesson plans not just for the day, but for the scope of the unit. I find that providing my supervisor with way more than he is going to need to be useful. When I sit down with him to talk about what we are doing, he should know that I’m organized and there is a purpose to all of my choices as well as the nuts and bolts of what he might see on any given day.

When I’m coaching my colleagues about these things, I always tell them, be intentional and be clear. The more able you are to answer questions about why you are doing certain things within the scope and sequence of your curriculum, the better. Bottom line, is be transparent and have answers at the ready.

Then I gather all of the resources and secondary materials that will be used that are already prepared. If they aren’t prepared, I do my best to have them prepared before the actual meeting or at least have a list to be prepared that can be shared as well.

Since I generally backward plan my units, I find it easier to give the overview because I know where I’m headed before I start and so do the students. Each unit or collection begins with a discussion of the end assessment and we backward plan together what students will need to be successful as well as co-create the success criteria. This way, every piece of what we learn can be connected back to the overall expectations and the standards of the unit.

This is all clearly communicated in my meeting.

Being a new teacher to this school (within my first year), but a middle career teacher in general (15 years in the system - four schools deep) although it’s important for me to do well, I’m more concerned with my student learning than with my performance. There is always a chance despite my preparation that what my supervisor sees will not align with what is planned.

And so in the nature of teaching... flexibility.

There will be an opportunity to discuss whatever happens after the fact in my post-observation conference, and I have to take solace in the fact that no matter what happens, I will be able to defend it.

Developing a relationship with supervisor that promotes trust and confidence in my ability to formatively assess students and provide feedback is key as well. I have been playing with my status of the class clipboard every day to be very intentional about what I’m looking for as I walk around the room and to be careful to empower students to use the information as they see fit to drive their own learning. Giving them lots of choice and opportunity to ask questions, allows kids to really dig deep into the content in a meaningful way.

Since this needs to be demonstrated as well, I will make sure to preemptively mention intentions in my meeting today.

Ultimately, I am very confident that I capable to helping my students learn the way each of them need to. Despite the hoops that teachers have to jump through to prove that we can do that, it really comes down to the kids. Continually, I strive to better improve my practice, forfeit control and empower students to own their own learning in an authentic and meaningful way. When it works, I like to reflect on why and keep pushing harder and when it doesn’t I have to examine what can be done differently. This is the only way I’ll grow and that’s what these observations are about... growth.

What are your success tips for pre-observations and how you do you reflect on your own pedagogy to ensure student growth as well as your own? Please share

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