"Been There, Done That" Tips & Ideas: First Observation

  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

Let's face it. It's hard not to be a little nervous when you're being observed by your principal or mentor teacher for the first time. It's an unavoidable part of being the new kid on the block. These insights from seasoned teachers will help you put the experience in perspective and, hopefully, keep the jitters to the bare minimum. Good luck!

What was your first observation like and what advice do you have for new teachers facing their first observation?

"Observations are always a little nerve-wracking. . . . So, first, keep breathing. Second, have fun — it should be obvious that you enjoy teaching and your students. It is this enjoyment that is the key ingredient to becoming a great teacher. To prepare for an observation, pick a time of day that you're at your best and a subject that is your favorite to teach. It will show your true potential. Finally, know that what is being observed is your potential, your connections with students, and your true love of teaching."

Amy Green, Commerce City, Colorado

"I asked teachers who had been evaluated by my principal what to expect. That helped me glean good ideas, tips, and specifics on how to prepare and gain a sense of what the principal was looking for. Even armed with this knowledge, I was nervous. The best thing you can do is be genuine and teach in your style all the time. If you try the ‘dog and pony show' to impress, it will most likely backfire. Try to relax. . . . The point of this observation is to remind you of all the good things you are doing and to help you keep improving."

John Hughes, Green River, Utah

"Make sure you walk around so the students are actively engaged. An administrator will notice the students who are not paying attention. I try to teach lessons that require students to have white boards at their desks because they are a great way to determine if students are participating. Avoid trying something brand new. Remember, if students are familiar with the routine, your observation will flow smoothly."

Linda Biondi, Robbinsville, New Jersey

"As a new teacher, I always felt great anxiety. My hands would tremble, and my stomach would cramp. Until one day I realized . . . hey, I love what I do, and I'm good at it! Whatever the curriculum was or whichever program I was told to follow, I always tried to put my own spin on it. I needed my personality to show through in order to connect with my students."

 Nancy Weingarten, Brooklyn, New York

"First, give your principal your lesson plan in advance. In addition, prepare supplies in advance, practice the lesson, and think through all the possible what ifs. I also taped questioning leads for using Bloom's Taxonomy on my front table to guide me. I told the students that the principal was coming to see how they reacted to my teaching. . . . They believed they were being observed, not me."

Nicole Tilicki, Tucson, Arizona

  • Subjects:
    Assessment, New Teacher Resources, Teacher Tips and Strategies
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New Teacher Survival Guide

Find practical and easy-to-use tips, solutions, and advice to help make your first year in the classroom a success.