From Cowering to Confident: How to Handle Nerves During an Observation

By now, many of you have heard the statistic that the fear of public speaking ranks right up there with the fear of death. For many teachers, speaking in front of students may not illicit that gut wrenching fear, but as soon as an administrator walks in the door, it’s a whole different story. Today I’d like to share 3 easy tips to help calm your nerves before and during an observation.

  3 Easy Tips to Help Calm Your Nerves Before an Observation

 1. Be overly prepared

Being prepared for an observation is one of the best ways to ward off nerves. If you have a solid game plan, you’ll feel less nervous about what might happen.


You can even write out your schedule of events on the board. It might look something like this.

Today we will…

  1. Read a Mexican legend about the sun
  2. Review warm and cool colors
  3. Watch Mrs. Heyn demonstrate how to use tempera paint
  4. Work on painting with warm colors on our sun drawings from last classClean-up

Besides helping your students foreshadow what will happen during class, this technique will make sure you don’t forget anything and help keep you on task.

If you have more of a “pop-in” style of observation and only know a vague time frame of when your administrator is coming to observe, you can prepare in other ways. Within that time frame choose lessons you have taught before, keep your room extra picked up, and watch the clock extra carefully so that you’re not caught rushing at clean-up time.


2. Breathe

I don’t know about you, but whenever I know I have an observation scheduled it seems like my lungs only work at half capacity.

Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 8.53.49 PM

Breathing is one of the best ways to stay calm. Focusing on the breath can help keep anxiety levels low, making you less likely to stumble over words or leave out an important concept. If a student is misbehaving during an observation, take a deep breath before addressing the issue. I guarantee you’ll look (and be) more in control.


3. Remember, your administrator is a human being too

Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 8.53.55 PMSometimes I think teachers get too intimidated by the word “administrator.” We have to remember that many of our administrators were teachers or had different roles in the school before they became “the boss.” These are people above us, yes, but they are still people. Just like us they have good days and bad days, and just like us, unexpected things happen to them too. Keeping this perspective will hopefully help you realize that your administrator is probably more understanding than you think.

So tell us, do observations make you nervous?

How do you handle the pressure?

We’d love to hear your tips in the comment section.



Amanda Heyn

Amanda is the Senior Editor at AOE. She has a background in teaching elementary art and enjoys working to bring the best ideas from the world of art ed to the magazine each day. 


  • Erica artprojectgirl

    Love the breathing thing! Yes lungs only work at 1/2 capacity when someone is evaluating me too! Hmmm my best tip is to have the kids talk more then you. At least then you aren’t putting yourself on the spot. Also I try to not use the quiet signal too much for fear of having to give reminders in front of an administrator. Usually I will go from table to table and tell students to clean up. This saves face in case kids don’t quiet down on your signal. It’s important to pick a stellar class as well for the observation and don’t be pressured to pick a different class that will work better for schedules during a formal observation. Kindly try to get your way with what class will be observed for formal observations! That’s all I have. Good Luck!

  • E. S.

    We have observations once a week at my school. They’re typically about 15 minutes and they are not on a specific schedule regarding time-frame; they pop in whenever they want. Sometimes I cross my fingers they come in during specific (awesome!) classes, but it usually doesn’t work like that. It was really hard on me at first, especially this being my first year teaching, but I have come to accept it as it is – One way to improve as a teacher. Not every observation will be a good one, and that’s ok. We are human.

    • Wow. Once a week! That sounds like a lot. I like your outlook on it. I know that after student teaching and being observed many times per year my first year, I just kind of got used to it.

  • hannahlucy07

    Brilliant topic with different way of writing I am very impressed
    to visit here.

    Writing Service UK

    Writing Services Online

  • Pingback: Making Teacher Evaluations Work For You | The Art of Ed()