(Ominously): dun, dun, DUUUUUUN.... Observations are coming. As a supervisor of student teachers, I can tell you what principals are looking for. In no specific order, here they are:
1. Do you have a lesson plan? No, seriously... do you have one? If not, it's a major red flag for them. Here are some ways they can tell if you have a plan or not: a. You actually have a lesson plan printed out. 📷:) b. If you're at a school where that isn't required, they will check for other evidence of a plan. For example, do you have objectives on the board? Do you have them only for the class being observed because it's a planned observation, but no other objectives are listed? That's a dead giveaway that you're putting on a show for them, but don't normally worry about sharing objectives.
2. All materials are ready at the start of class.
3. Your students behave as if they have practiced and honed procedural things like how to come in, what task to do first without being told, what materials they should bring to class, etc.
4. There is a sense of routine about your teaching. Students don't seem surprised by what you ask them to do during the lesson.
5. Behavior is good overall. If not, you handle it professionally and in a way that students expect. (I taught for years before I realized that principals don't expect perfect kids; they just expect that you know what to do when they misbehave and that you follow through in a professional way.)
6. Are your objectives content-specific, aligned with state standards, and are they measurable?
7. Did you measure the results of student learning? If so, was their progress documented in any way? If there is no evidence of any assessment of any kind, that is also a red flag. How are students graded in your class?
8. Are you dressed professionally? It's best to avoid jeans - especially distressed ones, form-fitting clothing like leggings, skinny jeans, fitted tops. Also avoid showing your armpits and cleavage. Lean over and look in the mirror before you leave the house. Remember how nice you looked the first day of school? Aspire to that.
9. Is your speech clear and audible? Can your observer hear and understand you from where they're seated? Do you avoid slang and only use professional language?
10. Do you show respect to children in your words and deeds? Are you providing a safe and nurturing environment?
11. Is your classroom a print-rich environment?
12. Is evidence of prior learning anywhere in the room or in the lesson?
13. Are you varying your methods of delivering information? If everything you teach is teacher-directed... i.e., you talking at students, that will be a concern. Do you feed students the answers or help them draw conclusions? Do you use various learning modes such as auditory (of course you do), visual, and kinesthetic?
14. Are you differentiating for students with special needs? Remember that gifted students need accommodations too. Think of that student who has had piano lessons since she was 5. She's probably going to breeze through your theory assignment and become easily bored without planned differentiation.
15. Are all students engaged throughout the lesson? If you have to work with one section, what are other students doing? If they're disengaged or talking, that won't be well received.
16. Do you and your students seem to enjoy what you're doing? Remember that your favorite classes weren't always the music ones; they were the ones where the teachers loved teaching and loved their students AND it was obvious! When a positive learning environment is present, other missing details are more easily forgiven.
Most of all, remember that your observer has been observed too and knows that it's stressful for you. MOST of them will show you compassion as long as you're doing your best for the kids!