Preparing For an Observation

Nothing can make a teacher more nervous than anticipating an administrator observation. The best way to ease these anxieties? Be prepared. Here are some simple ways to plan ahead for your next observation…


4 Tips to Help You Prepare for your Next Observation

  1. Create an observation folder for your admin. Context is key! You want your administrator to see how your observed teaching fits into the greater picture. The file should include your daily schedule, a copy of your classroom management plan, a copy of your classroom or district curriculum map, and your lesson plans for each class.
  2. Suggest good times for the observation. Of course, your administrator doesn’t have to take them, but they also probably don’t know why some classes might be more ideal for viewing than others. Perhaps one class is finishing up some weaving. There might not be ample instruction to observe there. Or, you may want to suggest they stop by during your most challenging class. It might sound crazy, but it could be a good opportunity to get some feedback and to problem-solve.
  3. Don’t make major changes to your lessons or management. Administrators already know that they are probably seeing you at your best, and they can tell when you are faking it. Be real, be natural. You want them to see what happens everyday so you can get authentic feedback. What good will feedback do, if it doesn’t apply to your everyday classroom?
  4. Prepare some “look-for”s or questions of your own. Your administrator will know that you are after real feedback and purposeful discussion if you say, “I’d like you to look for these three things during your observation.” For instance, I know that when I have such short classes I tend to rush through instructions and leave students a little wanting. I may ask my administrator to watch out for that. This way your observation can make a meaningful impact in your teaching.

How do you prepare for observations?

Sarah Dougherty

My name is Sarah Dougherty, and I teach elementary art in a large urban district in central Iowa. I love working with our diverse population of K-5 students to bring art to their homes, communities, and everyday lives.


  • I really like the idea of preparing some “look-fors” or questions of your own. I also think it’s important to ask for observations during a difficult class even though this can be difficult. Great suggestions!

  • One thing that can be tricky to be prepared for is early finishers. Sometimes the typical ‘free draw’ isn’t always as productive as we would like. I would recommend having an enrichment activity that requires very little explanation but, perhaps expands on the given standard you are teaching to give to kids who finish early on this particular day.

  • artprojectgirl

    Whew! I have to step back when I read “ask them to stop by on your most challenging class.” In an ideal world, rock on, but in this highly critical world of education I think it’s important to show at your best. If administrators know they are seeing your best, they expect you to hit it out of the park. If they want an every day picture, they will do informal evaluations. For a formal evaluation, I think we should advise new teachers to put their BEST, most polished, looking shoe forward. . . to keep their job.

    • artprojectgirl, I appreciate your point of view. You definitely want to put your best foot forward for an observation, I totally agree. However, sometimes our best foot forward doesn’t mean successfully managing your easiest class. Sometimes it means showing your administrator that you are a reflective problem solver, that in the face of a difficult class you are giving it your all, that you are willing to show them the realities of your classroom, then have a conversation about how to improve as a teacher. Isn’t that what observations are about? Of course, it is important to know your administrator. Hopefully they are seeing you multiple times in multiple classes to get a complete picture, and they aren’t playing the “gotcha” game. I advise teachers at all points in their careers to look for ways to get constructive feedback, reflect on their own practices, and take calculated risks.

      • erica artprojectgirl.blogspot.

        Progressively and professionally this idea DOES make so much sense to me. I feel like a lot of new teachers might be googling this topic and reading so it’s important to open up this discussion to more possibilities. . . . . so they know what they are getting into.

        A new teacher I am mentoring did this exact same thing (which had me shaking in my boots FOR her). She showed a class that was so-so with a lesson she would normally teach. It didn’t go so well eeek. After we tweaked it, polished it and choose a great class she got a great evaluation yay! but both go in your permanent file. Discussing both sides of the coin will help new teachers make an informed decision on what to do.

        Good luck everyone! Thanks for giving me hope Sarah that there are more progressive forms of evaluation out there! You just have to know your audience I guess!

        • Sarah and Erica,

          I actually did invite my admin to see my WORST class (not borderline, but worst) I strategically chose this group because I honestly struggled with managing them and wanted some help, but I also knew my relationship with my administrator. I wasn’t a struggling teacher and I’d never had a bad evaluation. In a sense, I’d proven myself before and also had worked in the same buildling, with the same principal, for 5 years. She knew me, my teaching style, and my track record. This background information helped me make an informed decision to ask for feedback and help. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, and you are a first year teacher, you could always ask a colleague or mentor to watch you and give feedback on a tough class, too. The end goal is better teaching so students can learn the concepts. There are so many ways to reach this goal! Great conversation here!

  • Mary Caldwell

    Another Art teacher friend suggested to make the arts relate-able to the administrator coming into your. I say this because our presentation tend to differ form the core classes and they aren’t sure what to look for when they arrive in our classrooms. ie Erasing+ redrawing an aspect of their artwork and = student using application & analysis to make inferences and new knowledge about an art process and applying it in a new way. This whole process is synthesis in action, with new info being compiled together to form an alternative solution (problem solving).

  • hannahlucy07

    Its highly appreciable job. Keep up the good work.

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