As an English teacher, I love thinking about the meaning of words. The definition of the word observation is the action or process of observing something carefully in order to gain information. I am struck by how literally my current principal takes this definition and uses it in positive ways to make my work feel valued. Here are 7 things my principal does before, during, and after teacher observations that can help you make a huge difference for your teachers:
1. Make teachers feel valued
My principal approaches me in person to schedule a time to visit my class, rather than sending a request via email. He greets me with a smile and says he’s looking forward to seeing my classroom firsthand. He might mention that he respects my work and is excited to see me in action. I fully believe his comments are genuine.
2. Hold purposeful pre-observation meetings
My principal has pre-observation meetings that always take place before the teacher observation. Often, administrators fill out pre-forms after the fact as a technicality. In our pre-observations meetings, he asks thoughtful questions about what led up to the lesson he will see and where we are headed. He makes it clear that he understands this is only a little glance into my classroom and he wants as much context as possible.
3. Pay attention to lessons
My principal pays attention to everything we do in class without multi-tasking. He does not try to answer the questions I pose to the kids as if he is a member of the class. And he does not ask them any questions himself. He observes.
4. Thank teachers publicly
At the end of the lessons he observes, my principal thanks me for the opportunity to spend a period in my classroom. He does this in front of my students.
5. Follow up quickly and kindly
He follows up quickly with a post-observation conference and a copy of his report. The first line of his email reads something like, “Thank you once again for having me in class today.”
6. Show you paid attention
When we meet to talk about the lesson he observed, my administrator generally has thoughtful follow-up questions and a remarkably good grasp of what transpired. He does not simply read off of his report. Instead, he leads an interesting conversation between colleagues.
7. Take time to learn from teachers
One of my fondest memories is when my principal 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, found it, and read it.
Teachers don’t get merit pay, bonuses, or fancy office parties—we do get observed. 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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