I Had a Principal Start Snoring Halfway Through My Observation

Plus more real-life observation horror stories you have to read to believe.

Paired images of teacher observation stories

For many teachers—especially new teachers—observations by a principal or AP can feel debilitating. Whether they’re planned or “gotchas” (and yes, surprising a teacher for their 45-minute observation is absolutely a gotcha), having someone in the room making notes on how you respond to factors out of your control is … a lot.

It’s easy to bomb an observation when your nerves are fried. Easier still is thinking you’re the only one to have ever bombed.

But don’t worry. We have some true horror stories to put you at ease. (Psst…we’ve got even more funny observation stories here.)

“I had a kid try to physically push the principal out of the classroom because she didn’t belong there.”

“Best score I ever had.”

—Sarah H.

“I discovered at the beginning of an observation that 6 of my students had lice.”


“The lady doing the observation left and said she’d do my observation on a different day.”

—Crystal R.

“My favorite story involves a student whose speech was usually very slurred, especially when he didn’t want to work.”

“He was angry at the primary teacher and called her a “m***er.” The b-word was also yelled out clearly just as the principal walked in. Without missing a beat, the principal walked up, shook the student’s hand, and congratulated him on speaking so clearly. The student looked around in shock and sat down to work.”

—Denise F.

“I was new to a private school, teaching preschool music.”

“The director walked in with a prospective parent touring. A student decided to bite another student. Luckily the director was great and very experienced. Later she said it’s not what happens but how we respond.”

—Laurie U.

“The superintendent walked into my grandson’s kindergarten classroom.”

“He was ‘holding’ himself, so she asked him if he needed to use the bathroom. He responded, ‘No, I just have an itch.'”

—Julie K.

“I had a second grader seated in the back row who kept running his fingers through his pale blonde hair, which was starting to look shiny.”

“We lost points on the observation if we let distractions interrupt the lesson, so I waited until the observer left to check things out. He was ‘moussing his hair’ like he saw his dad do in the mornings … only with Elmer’s glue.”

—Terri H.

“I had a student trying to buy Taylor Swift tickets.”

—Heather D.

“My boss whispered to the student, ‘What are you learning about today?’ and our friend jumped out of his seat, throwing f-bombs and stuttering ‘Safety!'”

“I teach math.”

—Brooke S.

“I always prepped the kids before the evaluation, so one year the principal came in before the class and they didn’t see her.”

“One little guy said, ‘Is this the day we are supposed to behave because the principal is coming?’ My face showed pure shock as I stuttered something about how we are supposed to behave every day … luckily the principal thought it was funny and the rest of the class went well!”

—Jan R.

“Just before I had my student-teaching observation, while the class was under the regular teacher’s control, a student took a chair and crashed it over the head of the student next to him.”

“The teacher and a counselor were chasing the offending student around the school. I handled the bleeding student and kept the class semi under control. I tried to teach my lesson, but the students were so upset it was hard to do. I got an A for not giving up under unusually difficult circumstances.”

—Sandra L.

“My district department supervisor walked in and one of my kids said, ‘Miss, your mom’s here.'”

“We both have red hair and freckles.”

—Marcy B.

“After my first year of teaching in the U.K., I was observed by an HMI (one of Her Majesties Inspectors).”

“The lesson went well, with every student able to speak about their pets. We were doing a bar graph. I got to the last child and he said, ‘We have a dog and he sh*ts all over the carpet.’ Choke! The HMI gave me a pat on the shoulder.”

—Christine C.

“I was doing a Kahoot game for an unscheduled observation (that someone else created and I OBVIOUSLY didn’t preview well enough) with the class as a Friday reward.”

“It was St. Patrick’s Day. The question was about what became legal in Ireland in a certain year. The answer? Prostitution. I looked over to find all three officials doubled over and sliding down the wall from laughing.”

—Alisa A.

“I had a principal go to sleep and snore loudly during my observation.”

“My kids just stared at me.”

—Missy G.

“I had a kid sounding out the word ‘jig.'”

“The word was in the curriculum and not my choice. The kid sounded out the word perfectly. The curriculum requires us to then ask them what the word means. Student raises her arm, points to her tricep, and says, ‘It’s like when grandma waves and her arm jigs.’ My principal was drinking her coffee and sprayed it all over her computer. …”

—Steven C.

“I had a kindergarten student suddenly jump up and run to the bathroom during an observation.”

“My student made it just to the principal’s shoes before he spewed vomit!”

—Karen A.

“I had a kid pull his pants down right in front of my principal.”

“He told her it was fine, he has shorts on.”

—Katie S.

“We had the mayor of our town come to talk to our third graders (the entire grade level) about his job, and he made the mistake of asking the kids if they had questions.”

“Unfortunately he called on the same child twice, who proceeded to ask, ‘Have you ever ridden a shark?’ and ‘Why do monkeys eat bananas?’ We were appalled and had the child sit by us (no more questions allowed!). At least the kid’s mother was also appalled. She had him write an apology letter and deliver it personally to the mayor’s office.”

—Marilyn M.

“I had a kiddo throw up during mine a few years ago.”

“And he’d eaten something bright pink so the rest of my kindergartners had a lot to say about it.”

—Jessica Y.

“Who is that old lady?”

—Jeri D.

“I was being observed while teaching a French lesson on making a sandwich Niçois.”

“In French, I asked individual students to come up and slice the bread, butter the bread, slice the tomato, cut the onion, etc. I decided to be sanitary and asked each student to put on a pair of latex gloves before they did their part in making the sandwich. One boy, after putting on his latex glove, turned to me and said, ‘OK, bend over!'”

—Mary D.

“I was in the middle of a very important observation (Florida learning coalition, where we get our program funded) and I was bitten by a child.”

“I had blood trickling down my arm as I lifted it discretely to alert my staff that I needed the nurse. Nurse immediately told me I had to leave and go to the ER. Right in the middle of this observation. I still ended up with a very high score … and three Hep B shots.”

—Stephanie R.

In so many of these observation stories, I think the administrators find themselves shocked at “how the other half lives.” Honestly, I feel like appraisers should do two observations per year: one to evaluate the teacher and one to evaluate how they can be a more supportive administrator.

What’s your most painful (or funny!) observation story? Let us know in the comments.

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Had a bad observation recently? Not to worry. These teacher observation stories will make you feel like a superstar by comparison.