Help! My Principal Said a Dirty Word!

You know what word I’m talking about.  It may not be a four letter word, but it might as well be for all the nervous sweating it causes each time it passes our principal’s lips.  That’s right.  O-B-S-E-R-V-A-T-I-O-N.  Admit it, teachers.  Your mouth went dry just reading the word.

This photo (click photo for link), “Silence” is copyright (c) 2013 Rebecca Barray and made available under a Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license (

© 2013 Rebecca Barray.  Creative Commons.  Click here for full citation (#11).

It’s ironic, isn’t it, that teachers, who make their living standing up in front of a group and communicating all day, go into panic-mode the minute an administrator sets foot in their classroom?  Even veteran teachers breathe a sigh of relief when the door closes on the process.

Thanks to our sinful human nature, our initial response to a situation is not usually the best.  This definitely holds true when it comes to our response to being observed.  What would happen if we consciously filtered our response and chose to view observations through the lens of the gospel?  A gospel-centered approach should cause us to do things a little differently.  Here are just a few things we can do to approach the “O” word with grace.

Remember who we are.  It’s tempting to find our identity in what we do, rather than in who we are.  (If you doubt how difficult, try introducing yourself to someone without any reference to your job, your accomplishments, or your status).   Acknowledging our identity in Christ alone frees us to be less defensive about what we do.

Say “Thank You.”  James 1 reminds us of the importance of self-examination.  It’s a privilege to have someone be that “mirror” for us, showing us what we really are in the classroom.   We should be thankful for that – and say so!

Highlight our weak spots.   Pretending we don’t have anything to work on doesn’t make our weaknesses any less obvious.  Why not set some personal goals for the year and share them with our principal?  As we thank him for taking the time to come to our room, we can him to specifically observe one of the areas we’re working on so that we can have another perspective.

Ask for moreYes, you heard me right.  A wise teacher will act on constructive feedback and ask for additional observation to verify improvement.  Imagine saying to your principal, “I’ve been working on transitions since you visited in my class last week.  Would you have time to stop by and observe again?  I’d love to know if you think I’ve improved or if I need to come at this from a different angle.”  (Have the smelling salts handy.  Your principal might faint!)

As we seek to hone our craft and fulfill God’s calling on our life, what else can we do to keep the “O” word from becoming a dirty word?  

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Marty Reed teaches at Veritas School, a classical Christian school in Richmond, Virginia. Her twenty years of teaching, coupled with her duties as pastor's wife and mother of two, provide her with excellent insights to share with FOCUS readers.