It’s no secret I like a slightly energetic and wild classroom. I taught middle school math—what other choice did I have? In my student-teaching placement, I learned how to structure a classroom environment with keeping students engaged … without them having to raise their hands to speak. I started implementing this same technique as a classroom environment strategy in my classroom (which, by the way, was never a problem), and one of my observers in my program marked me down for this. “Students, although engaged, need to raise hands before speaking in class.”
“… although engaged”?!
If you’re looking for a good laugh, check out some of the ridiculous things other teachers have been marked down for during their observations on Reddit. Here’s the original post:
What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve been marked down for on an observation?
- Particular student came in 20 min late, as per usual. Parents haven’t answered a single email all year. Asst principal decides to go up to this kid and ask them what we are learning about and why (why??). They reply, “nothing.” Shocker. I lost points for not engaging them immediately as they came in (mid-lecture). Also got told I should be accompanying the emails with phone calls.
- Kid put their head down (was feeling sick and later had to go to the nurse). Marked down for not checking on them fast enough. I start my check-ins from wherever in the class I’m standing (I walk around a lot and like to mix up who I talk to first anyway) and weave through the rows from there. I’ll always try to figure out why a student has their head down, but unless they are visibly distraught, I tend to follow my normal routine until I get to them. They appreciate that I don’t throw all the attention on them right off the bat.
- Not enough students indicated an answer during a poll-type question. I encouraged them and got a couple more takers. When I wanted to ‘incorporate student voice,’ I took the few volunteers that raised their hands and pulled a couple of name cards to solicit more answers. Got told, ‘you didn’t do anything to make sure more than the few you called on had something to say.’ Nothing in the notes about how I circulated the room after to monitor progress of my more shy/less vocal students.” —beebabycakes2
Plenty of teachers had responses of their own. Here’s how they weighed in:
A student was … on task?
“8th grader was ‘playing a drum’ while I was speaking. It was timpani. He was tuning it quietly like he was supposed to.” —AKBoarder007
Because I can’t defy space
“‘The tables are too close together; it’s a fire hazard.’ I had 38 8th graders in the room, of course they’re sitting too close together.” —eukaryote3
Children were being human
“She put ‘a kid yawned and one burped.’ … ummm ok.” —Inevitable-Rent-7332
Another adult’s phone went off
“I was in a classroom that was very much known to be a shared classroom (which had 2 teacher desks on opposite ends of the long room). The observer knew that I was only in there that period, and had visited me in my 2 other shared classrooms on that campus.
“A sub in the period before me had left her phone charging in the room, on the teacher’s desk that I didn’t use (desk #1); I was clearly using the other one (desk #2), with my bag on the chair, and all my materials on desk #2 including my school laptop & was projecting from desk #2.”A sub in the period before me had left her phone charging in the room, on the teacher’s desk that I didn’t use (desk #1); I was clearly using the other one (desk #2), with my bag on the chair, and all my materials on desk #2 including my school laptop & was projecting from desk #2.
“The sub’s phone dinged on desk #1. The observer glared daggers at me for the rest of the period and marked me down for the sub’s phone dinging. The sub even came back halfway through the period to claim her phone, taking it out of the room and apologizing, but that apparently didn’t matter.” —Ok_Ask_5373
“Admin said they did not see me have a learning objective on the board.
It was in the lesson plans I gave to them.
It was in the PowerPoint I used.
And it was on the in-class worksheet the students were doing.
Admin said ‘Well I didn’t see it,’ and kept the points off.” —Karsticles
My appraiser doesn’t even know why
“When I was student teaching, my university supervisor (an old white man) kept marking me high in basically everything, except whatever the code for mediocre was on the rubric for ‘professional appearance.’ After a few of these I finally asked him if there was something I needed to improve; he got visibly uncomfortable and started stammering about not knowing anything about women’s fashion, but it was probably fine. OK, if it’s fine according to your ability to assess, why are you marking me down?” —gravitydefiant
I provided an accommodation
“My room was dark because I had a kid with vision problems in my classroom. Bright light gave him headaches. He has a genetic problem that will eventually make him blind. Plus, my kids liked it dark in there. I did have windows, but it was early morning in the fall and fairly dark at the time.”
My appraiser was incompetent
“Observer was supposed to be observing a math lesson. Kids were 4th grade, so 9-10 years old. Observer arrived 20 minutes into a 40-minute lesson.”
- I didn’t introduce the concept properly. It wasn’t a new concept so it wasn’t a huge intro anyway, but they were also 20 min late!
- I was sitting when the observer came in. Yes. Because the only way I could write on the projector comfortably was by sitting because otherwise I was too short. I had asked numerous times for a lower table for the projector & never got it.
- Not telling a mumbling student to be quiet. She is autistic and mumbles the numbers to herself while working. She sits away from other students to not disrupt them. This is in her IEP.
- Allowing a student to go to the bathroom while I was giving the homework. Student had a bladder/kidney issue & when they had to go they had to go NOW. They were waiting for summer for surgery to repair this. They did not have an IEP or a 504 but parents had a meeting with me & the site administrator & parents decided that as a small school & it being elementary (meaning other than PE once a week, I was always there in the classroom) it wasn’t necessary.
- This was the best one. After the lesson the kids went to PE with a PE teacher. I had them put their stuff away and line up. I got marked down for just letting them line up without calling rows or whatever. Just, line up. And I allowed them to talk. Apparently they should have lined up silently. Why? They weren’t loud. Just chatty!
I got the entire eval tossed & had a new person come to observe with my comment being ‘If they can’t be bothered to arrive on time, they know nothing.’ The next eval was great, even with suggestions on using ADA compliance as a way to get me a lower table for my projector! (Yes, I am that short that I can qualify for ADA because of it.)” —Adorable_Bag_2611
Using a strategy my principal endorsed
“I got criticized for using an attention getter from Harry Wong’s ‘the first days of school’ … the book the principal recommended we all read.” —Lingo2009
“Briefly sitting down when I was like 39 weeks pregnant … ended up having my daughter 3 days later.” —Tacobelle_90
Students talking … during group work
“I’ve gotten dinged for too many students talking. They were doing group work.” —amahler03
Being too respectful
“It was my second year teaching first grade. The only ding I received: ‘Don’t call the students ladies and gentlemen. It’s too respectful.'”—aseck27
Not making a new blind student perform all group roles
“I usually work with one student at a time. During this observation, there was a section related to group work. I assumed it wouldn’t apply to me, since I was teaching braille to a completely blind kindergartner.
“I apparently assumed incorrectly. The admin said I should have planned to have my student play ‘all group roles, one at a time,’ including her being the note taker and the manager. She was in kindergarten. She was sitting in a room with just me. Plus, she didn’t know the entire alphabet yet.” —BrailleNomad
“Did we do this already?
- ‘Used a pen student did not like.’ Even if the student had a valid complaint (they did not), I don’t keep the pen they like at the ready.
- ‘Did not use projector.’ Did not have a projector. Admin then loaned me his projector, so that was nice.
- ‘Class rules not posted in at least five places.’ Yes student was on phone because “Don’t be on phone” sign was 17 feet from them instead of 14.
- ‘Too many students in each row.’ I felt strongly at the time sixth row was too far back, now I don’t care.
- ‘Not all students seated at desks.’ Had more students than desks. What’s wrong with sitting at tables?” —lurflurf
Not using the right technology
“Not incorporating technology into my lesson. I was a tech teacher and I had the students doing 3D modeling on the computers, as specified in the curriculum. Guess it didn’t count if I didn’t use the latest ed-tech website they were pushing. …” —robots_in_high_heels
My appraiser not knowing what engagement looks like
“In addition to observations, we had ‘walk-throughs.’ This is where two admin and two teachers walk into a class unannounced and spend about 10-15 minutes observing the teacher at work. The next day you get the impressions of each of your visitors in your mailbox.
“One day we were talking about the 14th Amendment. The learning objective was on the board, and they entered in the middle of lecture. Eventually I explained that there were lawyers who specialized in the Constitution, civil rights, and the like. In fact, I explained, there were lawyers that worked for the ACLU who specialized in 14th Amendment issues.
“Student1: What’s the ACLU? “Student1: What’s the ACLU?
“Me: I’m glad you asked! It’s an organization that provides legal advice and help when someone believes their rights have been violated.
“Student2: Are there lawyers who specialize in car wrecks?
“Me: Yes! There are lawyers who specialize in car accidents and property damage.
“Student3: Are there lawyers that specialize in cops harassing people?
“Me: Yes! Civil rights attorneys mostly but so do criminal defense attorneys when they have to.
“Me: There are attorneys that specialize in many many fields you may not even think about! Real estate, taxes, professional sports, entertainment, etc.
“Anyhow, the Q&A went for a few minutes more and my observers left the room.
“The next day I looked at the walk-through impressions and the admin noted that my kids were trying to distract me and it worked because I wasn’t talking about the 14th Amendment. The teachers noted that the kids were engaged and interested and asked lots of relevant questions.
“Moral of the story:
“Most admin wouldn’t know a good lesson or an engaged class if it punched them in the face.
“(Which is what my DC told me when I started at that site.)” —BlueMaestro66
Giving my student a pencil
“My very first year of teaching, I got a mark against me for walking from the board to my desk to a student to deliver a pencil. Specifically, that AP said that I should have had a system in place for pencil-borrowing, including a pencil sign-in and sign-out sheet. She said I wasted 20 seconds of instruction by helping a student get a pencil, when a ‘working system’ could have prevented that time loss.
“Worth noting that I was explaining a concept as I was moving around the room. I was talking, moved to help a student while continuing to talk, and kept rolling.
“She said it seemed like I was disorganized and ill-prepared.” —atisaac
We all have those slightly absurd or downright ridiculous stories that we’ve been marked down for on an observation that make us laugh or shake our heads in disbelief. But on a more serious note, shouldn’t we be worried when the people we have evaluating teachers don’t always know what they’re doing?
This is just one of many ways the education system needs improving, of course. But in the meantime, let’s keep sharing our stories, keep laughing, and above all, keep teaching with the creativity that makes us unique. Because it’s these very qualities that often spark the most memorable and meaningful moments in our classroom—whether the hands are raised or not!