Teacher Demo Lesson Gone Wrong: How to Save It

You have just completed a demo lesson at a school you’re excited about. The lesson was a complete and utter disaster. Show’s over, right? Not necessarily. This is how we have seen teachers turn it around.

Teacher Demo Lesson Gone Wrong: How to Save It

You have just completed a demo lesson at a school you’re excited about. The lesson was, as you feel in your heart of hearts, a complete and utter disaster. Show’s over—no offer, right? Not necessarily.

Now, there’s a whole lot you can do to ensure your demo lesson goes smoothly. But sometimes, there are some, shall we say, “bumps” in the road. This is most often due to student behavior, lesson content being too difficult or too easy, technology failing, or lesson pacing. Fortunately, we have seen more than our fair share of less-than-stellar demo lessons that have still resulted in offers. Below, we share the ways we have seen teachers turn it around.

Re-set Expectations

If there are many students off task at any point during your lesson or student work time, don’t panic. It happens all the time during both demo lessons and regular classroom instruction. It’s normal. But it’s essential that you respond.

Administrators want to see, first and foremost, that you can keep students safe. If a majority of students are off-task and it appears that you are completely unaware of this, their faith in your ability to manage a classroom may slip.

Worse yet, some teachers freeze when they do notice, and hope that the observing hiring team doesn’t take note of the off-task behavior. This is a mistake—they almost always do. It is critical that you address the non-compliance and attempt to redirect students to the task at hand, and here’s how to do it seamlessly:

  1. Get the students’ attention and remind them of what they should be doing.
  2. Use a tone that is calm and neutral (this can also be referred to as “warm-strict”).
  3. Scan to see whether or not the students have been successfully redirected.
  4. Repeat, if necessary.

Even if it doesn’t entirely fix the problem, you have made it evident that you noticed the behavior, and attempted to correct it.


Reflect During The Debrief

After the demo lesson ends, you are often given a few minutes to reflect while the hiring team discusses your demo privately. After you gather your belongings and say goodbye to the students, the first things you should be thinking about are what went well during the demo, and what you would do differently. Why? Because more often than not, those are the very first questions they will ask you.

The debrief is your chance to show that you are reflective, responsive to feedback, and that you have a growth mindset—in fact, this is almost as important as the quality of your demo lesson. Here’s how to master the debrief:

  1. Discuss the things that didn’t go well, and use data to support you answers. (e.g.,“There were at least 10 students that struggled with finding the central idea of the poem, so I should have spent more time with that component before moving on," or “It looks like eight students got question #2 wrong, which surprises me. I should have done a deeper dive when I checked for understanding during the lesson”).
  2. Show appreciation if they give you feedback. If you are going to be teaching at their school, they want to see that you are a person who can take criticism without making excuses or taking it personally.
  3. Have a growth mindset and make it clear that if this were your classroom, the next lesson would be better, and how. If you do this, it helps them envision a teacher that is reflective, self-motivated, and who will continue to improve over time.

If you do all of these things and you still don’t receive an offer, this school most likely wasn’t a good fit for you. Not to worry—there are lots of other schools out there! Take this opportunity as a learning experience, and go crush the next demo lesson!

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