Observations are a fact of life for teachers and it can be a stressful time. Sam, an experienced teacher, has put together some tips to help you prepare.
With our delightful paperwork trail in education at the minute, there are many ways an observation can take place. Formal observations conducted by a line manager can take place 3 times a year. Some observations last 20 miutes or a full less and can be used in performance management reviews. Learning walks and drop-ins are often carried out by senior management and require no formal feedback. Of course, there is the dreaded OFSTED that we have no influence over. There is also the informal peer observations, which focuses more on colleagues helping each other. In fact, I find these informal ones quite useful as you the experience of other people in the room without it being a formal event. It helps build confidence.
Whichever the observation may be, the key to success is not to try anything vastly different. I’ve taught in a failing school, rural schools, outer London schools and an academy with a strict focus on learning walks. So in my time as a teacher, I've had a lot of formal and informal observations.
When I was a new teacher, I often wanted to show off all my skills in one lesson, plan far too much and then it all goes a bit ‘Pete Tong’. My advice; do what you do normally. You’ll be more comfortable and what you’re pupils will be used to. Many teachers get upset that in the 20 minute observation, their best planning weren’t seen, so I usually have my plan available in full so it can be read. Other than that, the following should be available or planned every lesson, so this shouldn’t be extra work when you get an observation.
• Register with pupil data
• Seating plan with pupil data
• Objective on the board
• Optional lesson plan
• Any school policies you have such as student leaders/gifted and talented/levelling/Red-amber-green knowledge cards, in use in the lesson, and not just as a bolt on for the observation. These should be used regularly so pupils are used to them.
In short, an observation isn’t a showcase of a one off lesson. Be confident on your usual teaching ability and continue as normal. Don’t spend hours trying to plan, prepare and therefore get tired and stressed. My best observations have been when I’m relaxed.
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