Janice Longoria from New Teacher Mountain provides us with her expert advice on observations. Specifically she tells us who it is that you can expect to see in your room throughout the year. Janice is a veteran teacher who has recently retired and turned her attention to helping the new teachers as they adventure through their first year teaching. I have loved getting to know her and find her information not only entertaining but very educational and eye opening. Enjoy, and don’t forget to check out her website for more information to get you through the next school year.
Are you wondering how many times you can be observed in a day, let alone a week or a grading period?
New teachers are often bombarded by various people coming into their classes to observe while they are trying to learn how to manage a classroom and teach. I recently talked to a new teacher who had THREE observations in ONE DAY—the principal, then a content specialist and finally a teacher mentor! That’s insane, huh? Yes, and I was number three, so I felt terrible.
Why are so many people coming through? From my experience, different observers come through for different reasons. Here are eight different observers with different agendas—some are there to observe you; others are there to observe students.
People who observe TEACHERS:
PRINCIPALS: A principal or assistant principal is usually there for evaluative purposes—are you implementing the curriculum and managing your class? Are students engaged? Are you pacing the lessons properly? Have you planned appropriate lessons? How is the tone of your classroom? When they come in, KEEP TEACHING. Continue to make sure your students are engaged, and if something is going wrong, just fix it or deal with it as you normally would—professionally and with minimal disruption to the flow of instruction, of course!
CONTENT SPECIALISTS: A content specialist may be there to see if you are implementing the lessons that have been planned, whether you are addressing misconceptions, whether students are “getting it,” whether you are teaching the appropriate content for that grade level. Depending on the district, content specialists may be non-evaluative or evaluative. The best thing to do is to just keep teaching when they come in. If they need to talk to you, they probably will pull you aside when it is not going to disrupt your lesson.
TEACHER MENTORS: And then there are people like me, teacher mentors. Teacher mentors are normally non-evaluative members of the team. We are there to help you develop and hone your craft as a teacher. We are the ones you can ask those questions you hesitate to ask someone else because you think you should already know the answer. Sometimes, teacher mentors are there just to support you with a difficult class. If you are teaching when they come in, just keep teaching. They might help you or help your students. They may just sit and observe. Again, they won’t want to interrupt your instruction.
People who observe STUDENTS:
PSYCHOLOGISTS: School psychologists are there to observe particular students in your class. It’s important to basically ignore their presence so that your class environment can be as typical as possible for the observation. That way, they can observe the indicators they are looking for in a child without drawing attention to the fact that they are in the room.
SPEECH THERAPISTS: When speech therapists come into the room they are wanting to observe a child’s speech in the classroom setting. They will want to hear the child speak to you and to their peers. Again, it’s important to not draw attention to the fact that they are in the room, rather try to provide natural opportunities for them to hear the child speak.
OCCUPATIONAL THERAPISTS: These therapists work on activities of daily living with students who have certain disabilities. They may want to see writing samples, or they may just want to observe how the child physically functions in the classroom setting. They may or may not need to speak to you. They may or may not need to sit down and work with that student for a few minutes. When they are there, try to go on with your instruction. They will not want to greatly disrupt the classroom setting.
PHYSICAL THERAPISTS: It is rare for physical therapists to come into the classroom for anything, but they might want to observe for the purposes of making certain students are implementing the corrections they are teaching them or to see how the therapy has translated into the student’s functioning in the classroom. When they come in, you can generally continue instruction.
DIAGNOSTICIANS: These observers are there to assess students in the classroom environment. Usually, they are looking for how the student behaves in the classroom. As in the case of the psychologist coming in, it is important to maintain the normal classroom routines and ignore their presence the best you can.
It feels better to know what people are doing in your classroom and to know what to do when they come in. Next time someone drops in, just take it in stride and continue to do your best!
Have you had people with other roles observing in your classroom? Who were they? Take a moment to share with us what your experiences have been.