What Story Does Your Demo Lesson Tell?
Really that one word says it all about presenting a stand-alone lesson to a bunch of kids you have no relationship with. Compound that with the fact that you're stepping in for a teacher that they may love a lot.
Passing through the door of a nearly loaded room. You stick your chart paper to the board, set up your neat piles of color-coded papers and you stare out at a room of completely unfamiliar faces.
Let's face it: When a candidate goes to perform a demo lesson, they are coming into a story that has many missing pages, even if strong due diligence was done in connecting with the classroom teacher to learn as much about the genetic makeup of the students as possible and the dynamics of the class given any number of additional pieces of information.
For example, here are some questions you can ask to get a better understanding of what atmosphere you are walking into:
- What age group and level are the class?
- How big is the class?
- Are there any special needs learners? ELLs? How many?
- Is this a co-taught class with one or more teachers? Are their aides involved with particular students?
- What are they learning right now?
- What have they recently learned?
- How do the students best like to learn?
But what are administrators looking for when a candidate steps into this situation looking to hire the best fit for their school?
There's a lot your demo tell us.
- What does this candidate think a good lesson looks like? We can judge what you think success looks like because you get only one shot. Now, we also understand that there are a lot of factors working against you so execution may not go as you like, but what you plan, makes a loud statement. Make sure you bring lesson plans for enough people who may be watching. Plan for technology challenges or lack of access. Bring everything you need, just in case.
- What does the candidate value? Is this a teacher who stands at the front of the room and likes to talk? Is this a teacher who understands the value of putting students at the center of learning? Does the candidate listen to student's voice to adjust and evaluate as he or she goes? Depending on the kinds of activities and structures a candidate works into a plan, the school leaders can make a determination about values. What kind of content did they choose? Does it connect with the students of the age group they are going to be working with?
- Teacher presence in the classroom The way a candidate situates his/herself in the classroom and the kind of energy that is brought can really come through once the nerves wear off. Is this person the type who could command a room no matter his/her size? Are the kids engaged and interested in the person despite he or she not being familiar? Can you see the person's personality and how well it would groove with the students in the room after comfort has set in? What is the attitude of the teacher?
- Ability to build rapport Despite not knowing students, what effort is immediately made to remedy that? Does the candidate come in with name tags of some sort so he/she can address the students by name? This makes a big difference. While circulating during the activity, does the person go out of their way to ask students their names so they can address kids by name? Do the students know his/her name and how does he or she present it and remind students throughout the lesson?
- Ability to assess the flow of learning and adjust pace on the fly Can the candidate read the room and adjust the pace as needed for the kids? How is the person taking the temperature, asking students if they need more time? Is there a hand signal? Is the person circulating and talking to students? What does that look like... cursory glances over shoulders or actually getting down to the students' levels and talking to them to assess real understanding? Is the person collecting data as he or she goes? How?
- Ability to deal with setbacks and frustration This situation is fraught with unfamiliars and therefore setbacks can and will happen, how does the person deal with this? Can we watch the frustration? Is it visible? What kind of tone is the person taking with students? How does the teacher deal with a student who won't cooperate? Is it a private conversation about the cell phone or does he or she make a big deal? Is there a plan B set in motion in the event that students finish too quickly or not quickly enough?
When you're interviewing for a new job, remember that leaders are watching everything. Make sure to dress professionally but sensibly. Come prepared and ask a lot of questions. Be visible. Move around a lot and try not to sit for the period. Make sure to show what you know about differentiation and be intentional about how and what you are doing with the students. Be transparent. Don't forget to write a quick thank you for the opportunity.
Ultimately, a demo lesson is just one more piece of information that a school has to make the right decision for whom they will hire. Finding the right fit is essential as teachers could spend a career in the same place, so we have to make sure the right person is brought to the team for both parties involved.
What do you learn from demo lessons? What are your biggest concerns? Please share
*Photo credit to Michael Matera from 2018 ASCD Empower 18