One of the most important things a principal does as an instructional leader is conduct observations. I have done what I thought were numerous observations. I’ve gone into classrooms, watched the teachers as they talked to students, jotted some things down and noted when students completed tasks. I’d spend anywhere from five to ten minutes in a class and leave feeling quite accomplished. In researching for this blog post I came upon some FAQs at Michigan.gov and found out that what I thought was good is actually not. For a legally qualifying observation in the state of Michigan you must do at least three things.
Check out the lesson plans
While I would scheduled these observations in my calendar. I had not been as formal as to look at the teacher’s lesson plans. This is simple for me to do because we use planbookedu. This is an easy-to-use tool that we purchased through office funds. Once the teachers register they can share it with me. All I needed to do was click on the link before I left my office, check out their plans and then go observe their class. Without checking and considering teachers’ lesson plans your visit to a classroom is just a visit not an observation.
State Content Standard
Once you’ve checked out the lesson plan you gotta focus in on that content standard. When you’re in the room you need to check and see if they are addressing that standard. Is it incorporated into their “Do Now” or is it the “Essential Question” of the unit. Maybe it’s written in student friendly language as a learning target. Regardless of where it is you need to find it during that observation. Just stopping in and watching the teacher as she/he works with students doesn’t cut it.
The third component that must be considered is student engagement. Do the students know what they’re trying to learn? If you ask them what they’re doing can they point to the essential question or the learning target? Are they sitting there with heads down and eyes glazed or are they actively participating. According to Dr. Michael Schmoker three of the ways to monitor student engagement are to observe whether or not they are alert and tracking with their eyes, taking notes, or reacting to what the teacher or the classmates are saying. Student engagement is the third essential piece of an observation.
Just walking into a classroom and talking to a few students, watching the teacher present to the group and then walking out does not constitute an observation. You must, at the very least, look at lesson plans, know what content standard is being addressed and take note of student engagement.
What do you consider an observation? What are your State’s Minimum Requirements for an Observation? Be as specific as you can and leave a link to your state’s requirements in the comments section below.
I'm a Principal and an Entrepreneur. I'm the former owner of a food venture Hustling Hoagies, the author of the children's picture books Detective Dwayne Drake and the Alphabet Thief, Detective Dwayne Drake and The Case of the Mathematical Misfit and the ebook Making it as a Male Model in Michigan. I've worked professionally as a model and commercial actor......