Way back when I was a student teacher facing my first evaluation, I was a little nervous. But since I was a second career teacher, I felt confident in myself. I knew what I was doing.
It all went horribly wrong. One particular sweetheart—Mr. Fidget, newly arrived in my kindergarten room–managed to get his legs stuck through the back of his chair. And he couldn’t get them out again. Argh!
I couldn’t decide if I should be freaked out (he did seem to be more than a little uncomfortable) or laughing. Thankfully I did neither. I calmly taught him an impromptu lesson on how to get himself unstuck from a chair. And while I focused on him, the 20 other 5-year olds worked on their lesson.
In the years since then, I’ve been observed countless times and also conducted numerous evaluations as a lead teacher. Combined with that first experience, I’ve gathered all the best advice about how to not toss your cookies or freak out when everything goes wrong in an evaluation.
Here are the two secrets to having a great evaluation:
Know the observer. When you have an administrator, coach, or fellow teacher observing a lesson for any reason, you may feel judged or graded. That’s completely reasonable of you—who wouldn’t? They are scoring you based on a rubric. But let me assure you, 99% of the time they are not judging you.
They’re especially not critiquing you when they’re observing a lesson—they’re too busy transcribing everything! Only later can they plug it all into the rubric system. So know that when they are in your room, they are only focused on recording your lesson accurately—nothing else.
But also consider this, do you judge your students when you grade something on a rubric? Of course not! You’re just looking to see where they need to grow.
I’ve seen some crazy stuff happen during an evaluation from students throwing things to students throwing up. Teachers always meet the challenge head on and no one judges a teacher for the fact that life happens and kids are kids.
Focus on the kids. On any given day, your lesson, your attention, and your teaching centers on your students. Why should a lesson observed be any different? When you direct your attention to focus solely on the lesson and completely on the kids—ignoring all else, especially your observing visitor—you’ll teach like you would any other day.
Focus your attention on your lesson and on your kids. That’s it.
After you begin to re-route your thinking—they’re not judging you—and your focus—only on your students—you’ll be more able to remain calm during an evaluation—even the unexpected ones!
So next time you have someone drop into your room unannounced, you’ll teach an amazing lesson and remain calm, through controlling your thoughts and your focus. How awesome is that? I’d love to hear from you about your experiences with evaluations!