What to do if Classroom Observations are Unsatisfactory

This topic, What to do if classroom observations are unsatisfactory, has two parts.  Part I is for principals and Part 2 is for teachers.  I wanted to share some steps to take and the best way to address this. 

Part 1: Principals- What to do if a teacher you observe has an unsatisfactory observation.

  • Keep in mind our role is instructional leader.  We must be able to provide guidance and direction to teachers about classroom management, instructional strategies, student engagement and so on.  If you are going to evaluate a teacher, be willing to provide that guidance and support during this time.
  • Be sensitive but explicit.  In order for the teacher to exactly understand where the shortfall occurred, we need to be explicit in explaining it.  However, be sensitive.  We can explain it in a way that it isn’t harsh but instead it’s respectful to the profession.  Don’t leave the conversation unclear and foggy.  I call this the Thoughtful Approach.
  • One not-so-good evaluation doesn’t equate to an unsatisfactory teacher.  Maybe the teacher was having a bad day or the lesson just wasn’t thought out in advance.  When a lesson seems to be not working during an observation, I simply walk out and then send a note to the teacher that I will come back at a later time.  If I decide to stay and the lesson was unsatisfactory, I use that as a reflection piece and discuss this with the teacher.  I believe in second chances.  I choose not to write it up but a teachable piece for both teacher and administrator.  However, please note that a consistent unsatisfactory evaluation/observation, takes on a whole other meaning and a totally set of procedures. 
  • A teacher who is struggling in content, classroom management and instructional skills needs support in professional development.  As the principal, locate training that this teacher can attend to become a stronger teacher.
  • A teacher who is struggling in their performance needs a mentor teacher.  I have new teachers observe their mentor teacher every month.  The mentor teacher also observes the new teacher for peer guidance.  
  • Here’s my judgement call in evaluations that are unsatisfactory:  A teacher who is willing but can’t is reachable.  A teacher who won’t put the effort out but could improve is often the hardest to reach.
  • Set goals and create an improvement plan for the teacher ASAP.  Follow up and follow through with this plan.  The teacher and administrator need to be partners in reaching successful evaluations.  Keep lines of communication open through this process until the goals are met. 
  • If you have instructional coaches on your campus, have this staff member model effective lessons or provide trainings and support.
  • Provide consistent feedback to the teacher in order to support them in improving their practice. 

Part 2: Teachers- What to do if you’re a teacher who receives an unsatisfactory observation.

  • Know what the evaluator is looking for in your room.  For example, what are the campus goals or initiatives set for the year?  When you know your administrator and their expectations or the district expectations, then observations are less stressful. Most evaluators look for key things such as classroom and instructional organization, student engagement, alignment of instruction and the rigor of instruction. 
  • Plan and then plan again.  Most unsatisfactory evaluations I have observe could have been avoided by planning.  Plan for more than time allows in case something goes wrong or if time runs fast.  Trust me- something happens in every classroom.  Don’t think that the other teachers have it all together and the day runs smooth.  There are hiccups in every classroom.  I know you probably do not know when your evaluator is coming in the room so be prepared daily.  Before you leave school each day, look over your lessons and come in the room prepared for the day.
  • When something happens during the lesson that shouldn’t, address it.  For example, a student is up out of their seat without your permission, a student blurts out the answer, etc… address it.  I would rather you address it than not.  
  • Work with your administrator on a growth plan to help you improve.  Be open minded and willing to put the effort into a successful year.  Everyone has room to improve.  
  • Ask for a mentor teacher if one is not assigned to you through your district.  Observe this teacher and have this teacher come in your classroom for suggestions.
  • The majority of principals are not observing the teacher.  We are observing instruction.  We are gathering data about instruction and student performance.  Classroom visits are annoying and no one likes them.  However, we are required to do it.  I’m very sensitive to the fact that teachers are nervous.  I try and make them feel comfortable with me in the room.  
  • Be a self-learner.  Read and research what other teachers are doing in their classrooms.  Trust me there are many great teachers blogging today who share their amazing classrooms and talents with the digital world.
  • Attend workshops that focus on the areas of improvement.  For example, a teacher on campus was having a difficult time with classroom management.  I helped the teacher organize and arrange her room and then I provided a workshop to attend.  
  • Prepare your students for the observation.  Students should know the expectations when visitors are in the room.
  • Do the best you can do every day.  It’s all administrators ask.  It’s our job to take care of the est.


Last week I asked my followers to help me name my notepad.  After many suggestions, I named the notepad Journey.  As you know I have one current design called Bliss.  It is great for female administrators but the male administrators are a bit hesitate to carry something so floral around.  I totally understand.   After many requests by fellow male administrators, the new design was born.

Meet the new notepad- Journey

Classroom Observation Notepad- Bliss

Stephanie McConnell

Stephanie McConnell

I’m Stephanie, and I’m the face behind Principal Principles. I’m a former principal turned educational consultant, presenter, and edupreneur. I’m obsessed with giving school leaders the tools they need to lead a successful school.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hi, I'm Stephanie

Hello friend! Welcome to Principal Principles. I’m Stephanie, and I’m the face behind Principal Principles. I’m a former principal turned educational consultant, presenter, and edupreneur. I’m obsessed with giving school leaders the tools they need to lead a successful school.


Join the Facebook Group

Join over 63,000 leaders in our Facebook group!  Principal Principles Leadership is a professional learning network for future and current school leaders. We share ideas and resources every day!

Sign up for the newsletter.

A description of what the benefit is of joining your list.  Updates, sale notifications, resources?  

New in the SHop

You might also be interested in....