As an English teacher, I love thinking about the meaning of words. The other day after being observed by an administrator for the second time this year, I got to thinking: Observation is the action or process of observing something carefully in order to gain information. The power of observation is the ability to notice things, especially significant details.
As I thought about that, I realized the classroom observation that had just occurred actually fit that definition. Here are a few of the things admins could do before, during, and after an observation that would make a huge difference to teachers.
1. Make Teachers Feel Valuable
My administrator approached me in person to schedule a time to visit my class, rather than sending that request via email. He greeted me with a smile and said he was looking forward to seeing my classroom firsthand. He mentioned that he respected my work and was excited to see me in action. I fully believed these were all genuine statements.
2. Have a Purposeful Pre-Observation Meeting
My administrator had a pre-observation meeting that actually took place before the teacher observation. This is not always the case. Often, administrators fill out pre-forms after the fact as a technicality. In that meeting, he asked me thoughtful questions about what had led up to the lesson he was going to see and where we were headed. He made it clear that he understood this was only a little glance into my classroom and he wanted as much context as possible.
3. Pay Attention to the Lesson
My administrator paid attention to everything we were doing in class without multi-tasking. He did not try to answer the questions I posed to the kids as if he were a member of the class. And he did not ask them any questions himself. He observed.
4. Thank Teachers Publicly
At the end of the period, he thanked me for the opportunity to spend a period in my classroom. He did this in front of my students.
5. Follow Up Quickly and Kindly
He followed up quickly with a post-observation conference and a copy of his report. The first line of his email read, “Thank you once again for having me in class today.”
6. Show you Paid Attention
When we met to talk about the lesson he had observed, my administrator had thoughtful follow-up questions and a remarkably good grasp of what had transpired. He was not simply reading off of his report. Instead, he was leading an interesting conversation between colleagues.
7. Take Time to Learn from Teachers
My administrator asked me for the title of one of the poems I had mentioned in class because he was interested in reading it himself. He wrote the title down. He actually went to find it and read it.
Teachers don’t get merit pay, bonuses, or fancy office parties. We do get observed. Those observations offer one of the few moments of feedback in what can be a relatively isolated field. School leaders have this time to show teachers how much they value their work.
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