How Not To Throw Up

Monday is my TPA (Teacher Performance Appraisal a.k.a. teacher evaluation). I’ve known about this for a while, and even picked the date and time that I wanted. I chose the lesson, and I chose the follow-up activity. This is certainly not the first time that my principal has been in the classroom to see me teach. Our principal and vice principal do regular walk throughs, and I see them all the time. After my last blog post on walk throughs, I even invited them in more regularly to make me feel more comfortable when they do visit. And this has helped — a lot — but the truth is that I’m unbelievably nervous about Monday.

I can tell myself that there’s nothing to be nervous about. Paul, my principal, is doing my TPA, and he is so welcoming and so far from intimidating. He’s been fantastic throughout this whole process, and I know that it’s silly to be scared … but I am. I’ve been trying to reframe the situation, and see this as a great learning opportunity: as a way to find out about what I do well, and as a way to set next steps together. This isn’t helping though: I really want to be at my best, and my nerves are making me want to throw up.

So here’s my plan to avoid a #pukealert as the #kinderchat Twitter crew would say 🙂 .

1) Write this blog post. This post is really for me. When I blog, I get out all of my feelings and thoughts, and this often does make me feel better. I’m hopeful that this will work in this situation as well.

2) Be well-prepared … I mean really well-preparedI’m the planning type, so to be honest with you, I’m almost always well-prepared, but this time my plan will also involve a detailed lesson plan. I’m going to think carefully about what I want to say. I’m going to have my questions ready. I’m probably going to be more scripted than I usually am, as I know that when I get nervous, I talk more, so a plan will help.

3) I’m going to keep my instructions meaningful, but short. I don’t want to talk forever. I always attempt not to, but on Monday, I really want to minimize full class teaching time. This is for two reasons: 1) I see far more value in small group instruction than full class instruction, and once the full class lesson is over, the group work can begin. 2) When I’m teaching the full class lesson, Paul’s eyes will be completely on me. I know that. And honestly, I’m mentally preparing myself for that. But this is what will make me more nervous, so I want to reduce this time, and get into a situation where I forget about the gaze and can just focus on the students.

4) Have fun! I love my job! I honestly can’t imagine doing anything other than teaching, and when I work with students, I am totally and completely happy. I love having fun in the classroom. I love what happens when learning and laughter come together, and I want Paul to experience this magical time too. So I’ve planned for an activity that will let him experience this, and let me experience this as well. We’ll be building our Organ System DisplaysI can’t wait!

5) I told my students that Paul’s coming in on Monday. I wanted them to know … not because they need to know all of the details, but because if they realize he’s coming, they won’t make a big deal when he arrives. I don’t want his visit to be a distraction to them, and just like I let them know when other visitors are coming, I did the same thing for this “visit.” 

I know that the TPA Process is not a show. There will be no singing, dancing, or comedy routine 🙂 , but have I tried to plan the best activity possible for this? Yes! I want Paul to see as much as he can during his short visit, and I want it to be a success. How do you feel about formal evaluations? What advice do you have to calm a topsy-turvy tummy? 🙂 I’d love to hear your thoughts!


18 thoughts on “How Not To Throw Up

  1. In Ohio, we have the OTES (Ohio Teacher Evaluation System). We’re “ranked” based on a rubric of the 7 standards for teachers and their substandards. I get more nervous about keeping and organizing all the evidence to prove I meet (or try to exceed) those standards than the actual walkthroughs and observations from admin.
    When my admin come to observe, I don’t do anything I wouldn’t normally do; I don’t put on a show, even when it’s a planned observation. I pretend that my admin is there learning from me, and look forward to the feedback and suggestions in the post-conference.
    Good luck!

    • Thanks for the comment, Justin! Your standards sound similar to our competencies. It definitely took time putting together a binder of evidence to show my principal what I’ve done to address these competencies, but truthfully, this binder was just as useful for me. It really helped me reflect more on what I do, and what I can continue to work on more. Our evaluation though eventually comes down to a “Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory” rating. It’s really not about the rating for me though, it’s about doing my best: something that I try to do every day!

      My activity for Monday isn’t different from what I would normally do. I did try to pick one that would show the greatest cross-section of skills, but it is an activity that I would do regardless of an evaluation. As a little spin on your suggestion, maybe seeing this as an opportunity to learn together would be a good thing.


  2. Aviva, be yourself… only yourself. From my experience, when I am true to who I am, centered within my core beliefs, I am most effective as a teacher and as a human being. It’s only when I divert and move away from who I am and what I believe that I run into difficulties.When I try to live according to someone else’s expectations, I get nervous, I doubt myself….

    Be authentic. Be who you are – a fantastic, talented, inspiring educator who continues to encourage others like me with every post, every life-lesson shared, every reflection… All will be well.

    • Thanks for the comment, Norma! I must say that my principal is so very supportive of me and of my program, and Monday’s lesson is definitely one that I would do regardless of an evaluation. (I’ve shared that as well in my reply to Justin.) I think this is so important!

      And thank you so much for all of your kind words! Much appreciated.

  3. Aviva, I try to make it into classes enough and spend enough time in classes that teachers do not have to tell students when I’m coming in for a lengthy time. Glad that you are so prepared – you’re right… one must be prepared becasue the nerves will kick in and play tricks on you! Also, you’ve probably been told that the TPA is a process and that there is way more information an admin team has for the TPA beyond the classroom observation. I did, however, find that even my most “at ease” teacher was nervous about the observation. We had a great post-observation meeting, and then I believe she enjoyed a nice glass of wine! Have a great day on Monday!

    • Thanks for your comment, Mark! My principal and vice principal spend quite a bit of time in classes too, and I probably didn’t need to mention to my students about Monday, but I have a few students that benefit knowing about visits in advance (to make them feel more at ease), so I made the comment to everyone. And yes, Paul told me that it is a process and that it’s about more than just the classroom visit, but this formal visit still makes me feel a bit on edge. I think that being prepared will help (or at least make me feel better). I totally understand what that teacher of yours was feeling. I don’t drink, but I think that I’ll be taking one deep breath after school on Monday. 🙂


  4. I’m with you Aviva! I experience the same stomach symptoms whenever a formal evaluation, interview or exam is looming nearer. No matter how many times I tell myself not to worry, logic does not seem to be an antidote. We get anxious because we care. One short interview, evaluation or exam – a tiny snapshot of who we are, what we do and what we know – can have a big impact – and it is stressful! I know (as I’m sure you principal knows) that you will be as amazing on Monday as you always are – but that won’t settle your stomach. The only thing that will, is going through the process on Monday. I will be thinking of you and look forward to hearing about the big exhale you’ll experience when it is over 🙂 Debbie

    • Thanks for the comment, Debbie! It’s nice to know that I’m not alone. It’s true: I’ve tried to tell myself not to worry, but it won’t be until Monday’s over that I’ll truly feel better. Here’s to hoping that all goes well! 🙂


  5. My advice is to relax & breathe, & be yourself as Norma said above. Maybe try to consciously shift your focus back onto the students 100% & what they are getting out of their day with you. Plan with only their needs and passions in mind and everything else will fall into place. They will have an engaging & fun day with you & they need your energy on them to make it happen (as it always does in your class, and Monday will be no different). If you feel nervous on Monday, imagine Paul as his 12 year old self, there in your class to discover something new. Have fun!

    • Thanks for the comment, Michelle! Shifting the attention back to the students is a wonderful idea. I usually try to do this during an evaluation (as students are who I would focus on given any other day), but my eyes can’t help but glance over at admin. I’m hoping that once the group work starts, focusing on students will be easier to do. And your suggestion about imagining Paul as his 12 year old self, just made me giggle … maybe a laugh was just what I needed! 🙂


  6. Good luck on your evaluation Aviva. I’m sure once you get into your lesson you will forget all about Paul being there because you will be having so much fun.
    While TPAs can be important, I would take greater stock on what a principal observes in unannounced walkthroughs. I know when I am walking from one location to another during my planning time, I am able to catch a glimpse of every classroom as I pass there doorways. Although it is only a peak, one can still get an idea of all the learning that is going on. It’s interesting to see different teaching styles and lessons. I would love to do walkthroughs because one can take so much from seeing different classrooms in action.
    Even though your observation will be as per normal for you, many teachers plan lessons for observations that they don’t normally do making it really unrealistic. That’s why the unannounced walkthrough along with a thorough meeting about practices is a much better way of encouraging growth for teachers.

    • Thanks for the comment, Herman! I agree with you that a lot can be learned through the informal walk throughs. I always enjoy walking by classes on my prep and seeing what other people are doing. We can all get many new, good ideas that way!

      I’m also very big on not putting on a show. Yes, I’d like to be at my best on Monday, but the activity I’m doing is one that I would be doing regardless. I definitely do look forward to the debriefing, as I always find this professional dialogue to be helpful.

      Thanks again!

  7. First, you will rock it -not because all of your lessons are perfect, nobody’s are-but because you care and you are reflective. By ‘rock it’ I mean your lesson tomorrow is simply a continuation of what you do every day for kids-small group is the best and once you begin, it will be fine. Second, of course you are nervous! Like any presentation, speech etc., the first few moment are the toughest- celebrate your love of learning in this moment and who you are will shine!

    • Thanks for the comment, Liz! Great advice for sure. I need to focus on just doing what I love, and forget about the watching eyes at the back of the room. I’m hoping that this will get better as the time goes on.

      I really appreciate the vote of confidence!

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