7 Tips (From Teachers) for a Successful Classroom Observation

How you can use observations to help teachers feel valued.

teacher observation

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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Jeremy Knoll

Posted by Jeremy Knoll

Knoll is a public school English teacher of nearly two decades. Outside of the classroom he spends his time working as a freelance writer or exploring the outdoors with his wife, two boys, and dog. He loves the subject he teaches so much that he named his dog Atticus and got a half-sleeve tattoo depicting a scene from Maurice Sendak's WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE to celebrate the birth of his kids.

4 Comments

  1. Jeremy, I like the idea of classroom observers thanking the teacher in front of the students. It seems like an excellent way to show appreciation for their dedication. I’d also assume that it would help to warrant more respect from the pupils as well.

    Reply

  2. Jeremy Knoll

    Thanks for the feedback, Chris. It does indeed go a long way.

    Reply

  3. […] the room quietly and take a seat or stand in the back of the room. Do not interrupt the class and do not participate unless the teacher invites you to. If students are working at their desks, do not walk up and down […]

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  4. It’s good to know that when someone preforms a classroom observation on a teacher, there are somethings they should do to make it a success. I like how you pointed out the one doing the observing needs to pay attention to the lesson going on, and just take into consideration how the students and teacher interact through it. To me, I feel this more beneficial because it will give that person a better understanding of a normal day to day of what happens.

    Reply

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