Kindergarten is a fun grade, but one of the more difficult ones when it comes to group work and noise level. I teach grade 1 and I have the same types of problems every year. Don't think of yourself as a failure - your Principal is there to point out areas for you to improve in. From what you've said, these are not "MAJOR" problems but ones that if changed will make your day go much smoother and help your students to learn better classroom manners for when they enter grade 1. However I know the feeling, just being evaluated is stressful enough at times. I'm sure if she sees you making an honest effort to change things and improve your teaching you will find her responsive to it. And some Principals have high expectations, they do not always remember what it is like to be a first year teacher and some have little or no experience teaching young ones themselves. Unfortunately we do have to please them so I hope what I have to offer may give you some new ideas to work from.
- the first problem is easier - it's amazing how easy we let our students get off-topic. Mine always want to share stories and things can get off-topic quite quickly if I let it. First perhaps you could suggest on Monday that you want to tape record your lessons for the next week so that you can hear when and how you answer off-topic questions from your students. This will give you better insight into when it seems to happen the most.
- I handle this (especially during story-time) by stopping the child if it is a story they want to share and stating, I'd love to hear your story, but right now we are only asking questions. Most of these little ones do not fully understand the difference between a question or a story. And they love to share stories.
- I do set aside time during the day for stories so that they do not feel "deprived" if I stop them during a lesson.
- Even if a question is a good one, if it is off-topic, I'll make a mental note and let the student know it's a good question but not about what we are discussing right now. Then we'll continue with the lesson. Later I'll talk with the student and answer their question one-on-one.
As far as noise levels - this is often a problem in lower primary grades. I find the younger children respond well to cues - a raised hand (all students raise their hands too), a finger over the mouth for shhh, a word cue (freeze), a bell or sound. Since they lose attention quickly I keep their attention by changing the cues. Remember as well their attention span is good for about 10 minutes so plan mini-breaks between your lesson.
I often start with a story, then a song, then a word game, back to sit-down work, then a movement activity. This keeps them focused as well.
Watch your seating arrangement - keep those who are more energetic close to you - a touch on the shoulder often works wonders.
Do not try to continue with a lesson until you have them focused again. It may seem like you are wasting time, but they will begin to refocus quicker and quicker as you use this system. If they know you are just going to continue then they will as well.
So perhaps on Monday tell your Principal as far as the noise level goes you are going to research and look for cues and other ways to reinforce a quieter classroom atmosphere during whole group activities.
Another good method is to ask your Principal if she knows of any kindergarten teachers in your school or other schools that are very good especially in these areas and if you could arrange to spend a 1/2 day in their class to observe how they handle things and to also get some new ideas from them.
I have a page on my website of classroom management ideas that I collected from other grade 1 teachers, if you would like to see it just send me an email and I'll send you the link.
Keep us posted on how things go on Monday.