I had a lesson “Observed” last Monday. Apart from a minor technology fail, all went roughly as planned.It happened to be with one of my most well-behaved classes, and I have emerged encouraged and with a couple of useful pointers for improvement.
I remember the first time; the new, and frightening, head teacher informed me that she would like to observe one of my lessons. With more bravado that I actually felt, I replied, “Sure, when?”. I went on to add that as an “unqualified teacher” (I’ve several teaching qualifications but not the all-important PGCE), any hints and tips would be more than welcome. If she discovered that I was a good teacher, well, wasn’t that great, and if there was a lot of room for improvement, well, what do you expect from an unqualified teacher? That was probably unwise of me, and certainly took the head by surprise. As it happened, her very (scary) presence was enough to quell any behaviour issues with the tricksy class, and I emerged unscathed, with several helpful suggestions to take on board.
That’s pretty much how I regard lesson observations – as an opportunity to learn. I am prepared to stand my ground if the observer and I differ on some point or other, but on the whole I have found lesson observations to be an ultimately positive and useful experience. Perhaps that’s because I have never been “Ofstedded”? Well, sort of. There was one time an Ofsted inspector appeared. I set my class of recorder pupils the task of creating their own individual compositions using their favourite notes (they only knew BAG) and rhythm cards as a starting point. The din was appalling, and the Inspector stood it for a full three minutes before she legged it, saying “she’d come back later when we’d moved on to singing”. She never came back.
All I would say is, check the inspection report form to see what they are looking for, and aim to give the observer the opportunity to tick as many of the boxes as possible. If you can, link things together; so that the activities relate to each other and make sense together. If you are omitting various elements, give a reason why, and demonstrate that you have covered it previously, or will be doing it soon.
Make sure you are absolutely certain about how you will give out/retrieve instruments – this can be the most chaotic and destructive part of a lesson, if not organised with military precision.
Another danger point is when the children move – from seated to standing, from being in a circle to being in a space, lining up – give instructions clearly before anyone is allowed to move a muscle, and check that they understand EXACTLY what they are about to do.
Finally, my number one sweat point concerns technology. I ALWAYS check it out beforehand, and ALWAYS assume that it may not work on the day. Have a non-technological, non-electricity-reliant backup plan ready, and switch to it quickly. I have “lost” more classes than I care to remember through fiddling around with whiteboards, laptops, CD players and other cranky devices while the children start fidgeting, chatting, pinching each other running around, rioting…