Why the Pre-Conference Is so Critical to Your Classroom Observation
Your observation pre-conference is coming up and you’re wondering how to best approach it:
- Should you walk in cold without lesson plans, or should you come prepared with plans and questions?
- How much should your class know about the observer’s upcoming visit?
- Is it OK to tell students about the observation in advance?
All these questions (and more) can be answered during the pre-conference — so long as you arrive prepared to ask them.A classroom observation is your one chance to demonstrate your skills to another educator who understands how effective teaching works. It’s also one of your best opportunities to learn how to become a better teacher. That’s why it’s so important to use the observation pre-conference to set the stage for a successful observation. Here’s how to do that:
Find out what’s expected
When planning to meet before your observed lesson, be sure to ask what you’re expected to bring to the conference. If the answer isn’t clear, at least bring a copy of your lesson/unit plans, your gradebook (or a way to access it online) and any materials that you’ll be sharing with the class. There should be a rubric or other form to assess your performance. Bring that too, and highlight areas where you need clarification.
Take the approach that your formal observation actually begins at your pre-observation conference. Your preparation and approach to this meeting will set you up for a better experience during the actual lesson observation.
Bring your unit plans
Off all the things you can bring to the pre-conference, the most important is a copy of your lesson/unit plans. While the observer may ask about your classroom management and parent communication practices during the lesson, you can’t forget that your responsibilities are primarily academic: You must be prepared to discuss what your students need to learn, and how you’re going to get them there. You can’t ignore the fundamentals — focusing on academics in your pre-observation meeting sends the signal that you fully understand your role in the classroom.
Bring a growth mindset
The pre-observation conference is as much about your improvement as it is about your work being assessed. Come prepared with questions about best practices in the classroom, and don’t fall into the trap of thinking asking for help will be interpreted as weakness.
Instead, view it from the vantage point that your observer will appreciate that you have a growth-mindset approach to improving as a teacher. Also keep in mind that your observer (most likely) has a full understanding of good classroom practice, and tapping into that resource will help you to grow as a teacher. Remember — never stop learning.
Drill deeper on the specifics of your observation
Ask for more context on the visit. What kind of advance notice can you give the class? How will the observer enter the room? Some observers like to be introduced so they can say a quick word and put the class at ease. Others like to slip in quietly and watch from the back of the room.
Specifically, ask what the observer expects you to do. Also ask what you should not do during the lesson. Will the observer be expected to join a student group? How much interaction does the observer want to have with you during the lesson? It’s important to use the pre-conference to understand these ground rules.
The pre-observation conference gives you the opportunity to set a full context for the observation. Take a broad approach to the conference by using it as an opportunity to share your work with the observer. Also, consider it a chance to learn the logistics of the visit.
When you see the pre-conference this way, you set yourself up not only to succeed during the observation, but also to grow in your professional practice. You can’t afford to miss the opportunity.