Professional Practice

From Cowering to Confident: How to Handle Nerves During an Observation

By now, many of you have heard the statistic that the fear of public speaking ranks right up there with the fear of death. For many teachers, speaking in front of students may not illicit that gut wrenching fear, but as soon as an administrator walks in the door, it’s a whole different story. Today I’d like to share 3 easy tips to help calm your nerves before and during an observation.

  3 Easy Tips to Help Calm Your Nerves Before an Observation

 1. Be overly prepared.

Being prepared for an observation is one of the best ways to ward off nerves. If you have a solid game plan, you’ll feel less nervous about what might happen.


You can even write out your schedule of events on the board. It might look something like this.

Today we will…

  1. Read a Mexican legend about the sun
  2. Review warm and cool colors
  3. Watch Mrs. Heyn demonstrate how to use tempera paint
  4. Work on painting with warm colors on our sun drawings from last classClean-up

Besides helping your students foreshadow what will happen during class, this technique will make sure you don’t forget anything and help keep you on task.

If you have more of a “pop-in” style of observation and only know a vague time frame of when your administrator is coming to observe, you can prepare in other ways. Within that time frame choose lessons you have taught before, keep your room extra picked up, and watch the clock extra carefully so that you’re not caught rushing at clean-up time.

2. Breathe

I don’t know about you, but whenever I know I have an observation scheduled it seems like my lungs only work at half capacity.

Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 8.53.49 PM

Breathing is one of the best ways to stay calm. Focusing on the breath can help keep anxiety levels low, making you less likely to stumble over words or leave out an important concept. If a student is misbehaving during an observation, take a deep breath before addressing the issue. I guarantee you’ll look (and be) more in control.

3. Remember, your administrator is a human being too

Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 8.53.55 PMSometimes I think teachers get too intimidated by the word “administrator.” We have to remember that many of our administrators were teachers or had different roles in the school before they became “the boss.” These are people above us, yes, but they are still people. Just like us they have good days and bad days, and just like us, unexpected things happen to them too. Keeping this perspective will hopefully help you realize that your administrator is probably more understanding than you think.

So tell us, do observations make you nervous? How do you handle the pressure?

We’d love to hear your tips in the comment section.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Amanda Heyn

Amanda Heyn is AOEU’s Director of K–12 PD & Media and a former AOEU Writer and elementary art educator. She enjoys creating relevant and engaging professional development just for art teachers.

More from Amanda