Mid-Year Observation Tips from a NJ Administrator

on February 27, 2018

By late February we’ve reached passed the halfway point in the current school year. If you’re a principal or building administrator you are in the process of visiting teachers to formally observe them for the second or even third time.

Also, you’ve probably been observing teachers for a solid 3 months, and in the maze of observations it might be increasingly challenging to keep your thoughts straight from one observation to the next.

You might even be tempted to just say, “Let me just get these observations done,” instead of doing them in a reflective and thoughtful manner.

So how do you fend off the gremlins of rote and routine, and instead maintain fidelity to the process that facilitates professional growth?

I’d like to share some of my favorite tips for keeping your observation process fresh and rewarding for you and most importantly for your staff:

  1. Quick informal visits to the classroom before buckling in for a formal observation will provide you with recent context for the climate of each classroom.

                                                       Keep these informal visits:




  1. Refresh your memory on previous observations have already been completed. Look for any areas of focus, either positive or negative go better guide your professional conversations.
  1. Take a sanity break! We all have busy schedules and checking off observations from a “To Do List” might feel good, but taking consecutive days off will give you a chance to focus on other initiatives that need your attention too.
  1. Review school and district goals with your teachers in any pre-conferences you have. Reflecting on the “why”, and including it in our professional conversations, helps us to more successfully achieve excellence.
  1. When you’re visiting a teacher for the second or third time, give yourself permission to move around during the course of the observation. It keeps you fresh but it also gives you a greater sense of how engaged the students are in the lesson.
  1. Try to give at least some immediate feedback to your teachers. Timely feedback is always best! Try this even if it isn’t your “formal” post-observation feedback.

         This is especially important as both you and your teachers are likely to be heavily involved in so many other aspects of education at this point in the school year.

  1. After a formal observation, go back to visit the same group of students shortly after the lesson is completed, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. Go in with your hands free (no computer or notepads) and a smile on your face. You don’t want this to be mistaken as a “gotcha” moment.

             Being visible is really powerful for students and helps to foster stronger relationships                  with each class!

  1. Make sure you’ve been visible enough in the classroom and halls so that your only professional contact with your teachers isn’t in formal observation setting. It’s important as you come to the end of the year that you have significant contact with all of the teachers that you’re responsible for supervising.

If you keep yourself refreshed, informed, and engaged with observations throughout the school year, the results will be a better supported staff, a more knowledgeable principal, and better school culture.

Comment your best tips that help you stay fresh and motivated throughout the observation process below!

Staff evaluation program