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Keeping Your Cool for Your CDA Observation

Posted by on in Early Childhood
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The thought of someone coming in to observe you at work is unsettling for some and downright disturbing to others. You may fear that your regular, everyday routines will suddenly become a disheveled chain of events, as you struggle to stay focused. And that’s just you– but what about the children?

Ah yes, the children. How will they act that day? Will they sense your nervousness and become uneasy, as well? Now, your imagination begins to run wild! Children who are usually calm and well-behaved will act out and become unruly. Those children who are normally a handful will totally test your limits, recognizing your demeanor is a little off and someone else is in the room.

And what about the activities you’ve planned and the daily schedule? Will you even be able to remember your plans and keep things running smoothly... or will the whole morning start to unravel?

As these scenarios race through your head, you find it hard to get that good night’s sleep you need the night before. Well, all of this can be avoided. With a little planning and preparation, you can feel calm and fully prepared for a great observation.

First, think about your typical weekly schedule. Choose a day for your observation that is usually smooth and low-key… not one that has a number of changes or special activities. Avoid a day when some of the children usually   arrive late or leave early. These types of change-ups can just cause waves and unpredictable situations you don’t need!

 Choose the activities for your observation day wisely. You’ll want activities that aren’t highly teacher-directed, so you can still focus on the rest of the room and put out small fires, if needed.

 Don’t be tempted to show off with that new, messy, hands-on paint activity you saw at a workshop    recently. Observation Day is the wrong time to try something new and untested, because it will undoubtedly follow Murphy’s Law… with a good chance of things getting out of hand, and clean-up becoming a total stress-fest.

When you do decide on the day’s activities, be sure they are well planned out. You might even consider writing out bullet points of how things will proceed, in case you get a little nervous and go blank. Have the necessary materials completely ready to go and at hand. Nothing raises blood pressure like realizing you’re missing the key item for an activity, when someone is watching and taking notes!

Think about and come up with a Plan B, in case what you originally planned isn’t going well. Instead of a meltdown, you’ll have a new trick up your sleeve to (almost) seamlessly save the day. The PD Specialist will be very impressed! You probably do this every day without thinking, but during an observation, don’t expect any of your quick thinking to kick in.

Finally, (and probably first of all) be sure to conduct a Self-Study of your early childhood program environment and teaching practices. I’ve mentioned this before, but the value of this exercise is worth repeating! You want to feel calm and in control during the observation, knowing exactly what the PD Specialist will be looking for. This brings a sense of confidence, having double checked and done your best to comply with the main points of interest.

Now, relax! Get a good night's sleep and plan on a fantastic observation!






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Debra Pierce is professor of Early Childhood Education at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. Ivy Tech is the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college systems, serving nearly 200,000 students annually.

Her professional background has always involved children, over the past 40 years, having been a primary grades teacher in the Chicago Public School system, a teacher of 3 and 4 year-olds in a NAEYC accredited preschool for 15 years, and a certified Parent Educator for the National Parents as Teachers Program.

Debra is a certified Professional Development Specialist for the Council for Professional Recognition. She has taught CDA courses to high school career/tech dual credit juniors and seniors in preparation for earning their CDA credentials. She also conducts CDA train-the-trainer events across the country and develops and teaches online CDA courses for several states, is a frequent presenter at national and state early childhood conferences, and is a Master Trainer for the states of Minnesota and Arizona. She was also awarded the NISOD Teaching Excellence Award by the University of Texas.

Debra is active in her community, supporting children's literacy and is on the board of directors of First Book in Indianapolis. Debra is a contributing author for Hamilton County Family Magazine and Indy's Child in Indianapolis.
She loves spending time with her two grandsons, Indy, who is 7 and Radley, 3.

Debra has spent the last 16 years dedicated to the success of those pursuing the CDA credential and is the author of The CDA Prep Guide: The Complete Review Manual for the Child Development Associate Credential, now in its third edition (Redleaf Press), the only publication of its kind. She hosts a website providing help and support to CDA candidates and those who train them at http://www.easycda.com
The comments and views expressed are not in collaboration or affiliation with The Council for Professional Recognition or Ivy Tech Community College.
Follow me on Twitter at /easycda

  • Guest
    Sherilynn Kimble Tuesday, 13 January 2015

    I shared with my class who found it very helpful. Thank you for providing information that is very timely as I have two students preparing for classroom observations.

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