Ep #88: The Top 3 Pitfalls to Avoid If You Want to Ace Your Formal Observation

65 total views

Nothing strikes fear in the heart of a teacher more than a formal observation. 

You’re exhausted from all the hours you spent creating the perfect lesson plans

You’re waiting anxiously with a dry mouth and sweaty palms for your principal to walk through the door.

And there’s this sound of a clock ticking inside your head that you just can’t get rid of, no matter how hard you try.

Are you stressed out yet? Because I sure am!

But no need to panic, because, as always, I’m here to help!

It doesn’t matter if you’re a new teacher or a seasoned veteran. Formal observations will always get those butterflies in your stomach going.

But that doesn’t mean you should let those butterflies ruin your day.

Instead, listen to this episode, and discover my top tips for a stress-free observation, as well as all the pitfalls to avoid.

Are you ready?

Let’s dive in!

Formal Observation Pitfalls to Avoid

[Image quote: “What [your observer is] looking for is just a glimpse into what your typical daily routine, lessons, and interactions with students look like.” - Vanessa Levin]

Let’s go back to the nineties, shall we? Why? Simply because I’m about to tell a story!

Picture this: It’s the nineties, and I’m doing my student teaching. I had found what I thought was the perfect lesson to present during my formal observation. 

The lesson was all about healthy eating, and it seemed to tick all the boxes for what I knew the observer would be looking for. But, I made some critical mistakes that completely ruined my lesson.

Formal Observation Pitfall #1:

The first mistake I made was that I didn’t take into consideration the ages of the students that I was going to be sitting in front of delivering this lesson to, and that was children who were ages five to six in kindergarten. 

I just chose what lesson I thought was the best for my formal observation.

I was focusing on what I thought the lesson should entail based on what I knew my observer would be looking for. And so, I was just ticking the boxes and I didn’t really go deeply enough.

Formal Observation Pitfall #2:

Another thing that I did wrong was that I didn’t consider the background knowledge of my students. So here I was doing this fabulous lesson that looked great on paper, all about how we should be eating apples and broccoli and fresh foods and avoiding chips and soda. 

But I forgot that my students lived in what we now know as a food desert. A lot of my students didn’t have a lot of experience with these kinds of foods. And so, during my lesson, all they did was look at me blankly and wonder what I meant when I said we should eat apples and spinach more often. 

Formal Observation Pitfall #3:

[Image quote: “When changes are made to your daily routine or the way you typically structure your lessons, your kids will react how young children normally react to sudden changes in their routine, poorly.” - Vanessa Levin on why you shouldn’t make any changes to your daily routine during a formal observation]

Something else that I completely neglected to consider was my students’ attention spans (I was still a student teacher so I didn’t have the knowledge I have now). And that was a critical mistake on my part.

I didn’t realize how long the lesson would have to be in order to make sure that every student had a chance to participate, which I knew my observer wanted to see.

I had twenty five students in that class, and I was going to do a graphing activity where we were supposed to graph healthy and unhealthy foods. Then, my goal was to have each student come up and place a photo in the right column on the chart that I made. 

But having twenty five children come up and do that is a big ask. And that activity ended up being way too long for the class to be seated and remain engaged with my lesson. And that means my precious, perfect lesson was a complete flop. 

I’m sure you already guessed how this observation turned out; my perfect lesson turned into the perfect nightmare. But that’s what student teaching is all about!

So, how do you craft the perfect lesson for your observation? It’s very tricky and there’s no recipe to follow. But there are a few things you can do to make sure your formal observation goes by smoothly.

I discuss all of this in more depth (and share my top tips with you for the perfect formal observation lesson) in the episode above, so make sure to watch it!

Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Get the Complete Fairy Tale bundle

Grab the Three Little Pigs lesson plan

Get the Picture Schedule Cards and Classroom Rules

Find out Three Little Pigs book list

Learn more about Teach Smarter, a book by Vanessa Levin

Share this Post

About Us

What started as a mission to share educational news has grown into your daily go-to for educational resources for teachers, parents and students.