There are so many things to think about when you’re being observed, it’s easy to forget the obvious. Here are seven ways to make sure you rock your next observed lesson.
Before the lesson
1. Know what’s expected of you.
Try to get a copy of the observation form your observer will use and understand what they’re looking for. Are you expected write the aims on the board at the start of class? Give homework? Show evidence of learning? Avoid using the students’ L1? Make sure you’re clear on the standards before show time.
2. Have a backup. For everything!
A board pen running out isn’t big deal in a regular class, but observed lessons are different. Nerves make you scramble to find another pen. That causes you to forget the instructions to the next activity and the following task then completely falls apart. Something as small as a board pen can spark a chain reaction and before you know it, you’ve got the pedagogical equivalent of Chernobyl on your hands. If you plan to show images on a projector, print the images too. If you’re using a whiteboard, bring a spare set of board pens. If you’ll give students handouts, bring a few spares. Have a safety net for every aspect of the class.
3. Don’t rush!
Do all your printing the day before, double check your computer is working, check if any students will be absent. On the day devote all your brainpower to delivering a great class, not worrying about last minute logistics.
During the lesson
4. Keep your cool.
Being observed makes you nervous. Being nervous makes you talk too quickly. Talking too quickly confuses students. Take deep breaths. Slow down. If you have problems with nerves, throw some power poses in the nearest toilet cubicle before class. Stay in control of your anxieties.
5. Teach the students, not the plan.
This adage goes for all classes, but it’s harder to deviate from a lesson plan you’ve spent days writing than regular plans (which are more the length of a shopping list than a college dissertation). If things aren’t going according to plan, adapt.
After the lesson
6. Take responsibility.
As an observer, my personal bugbear was teachers saying “there wasn’t enough time in the class.” Really, who is to blame here? The Mesopotamians for dividing the day into 24 equal parts, or you for trying to squeeze too many activities into an hour? Think about what you could have done to teach a better class, not about how the rest of the world is at fault for what went wrong in your lesson.
7. Listen to the feedback.
Getting critical feedback can be hard to hear, but it’s also one of the best opportunities you’ll have as a teacher to develop. Without making errors, students can’t learn a language. Without making mistakes, teachers can’t improve their teaching. Avoid acting defensively, arguing with the observer and blaming the students. Instead, keep an open mind, ask for more details and note down the suggestions.
For more on how to develop as a teacher, check out these podcasts.