Yes, it has been forever since I have posted. Yes, I am still alive. And yes, I missed you, too.
This summer, I have begun a master’s program at Vanderbilt University in Independent School Leadership. This marks the second week of our 6-week summer program, and already I have learned so much. We are about to finish up our first “theme” of the summer, which discusses leadership, teachers, and curriculum.
Today, we completed a discussion on the importance of evaluating teachers. Now, when most teachers hear the word “evaluation”, they run for cover. They generally picture their principal sitting awkwardly at a desk, furiously taking notes while the teacher tries not to say or do anything ridiculous. Afterwards, the teacher sits down with the principal and listens to all the things they do right and the things they do wrong. Then, the teacher signs the paper, and everyone moves on.
As we talked about the process of observations and reflections, I could help but notice all of the similarities between teacher evaluation and student evaluation. As a teacher, I perform assessments and evaluations of my students all the time. I check their math problems. I look to see if their homework is done. I read over their essays. Throughout their careers, teachers are doing all sorts of evaluations, and we tell students that it’s so they can get better. We try to make the situation as low pressure as possible, ensuring kids with test anxiety or fear of failure that “everything’s going to be all right.”
If that’s the case, then why do we carry such tension when we go into evaluations? Often, instead of viewing this as a time to learn and a time to get better, we only think of negative consequences. Much of this fear could be due to the culture that our school or our previous schools have established. If evaluations only lead to non-conversations if you’re doing well and long conversations if you’re not, then you may start to dread that time of the year.
Evaluations are an essential part of the process of education. We must be sure that our teachers are top notch! And in order for this to happen, leaders MUST create an environment where evaluations aren’t such a horrible thing. Get the teachers in on it – ask them to do a self-reflection, and then you and the teacher sit down and compare your results. You’ll be surprised how much you have in common in those evaluations. Also, let the teachers make the tool. Why do just the principals and the heads get to decide what makes a good teacher? We should include the people that are actually in the classroom every day. And in that process of determining what makes a good teacher, those teachers will be self-evaluating and reflecting. Always good things.
I’m not an administrator, and I don’t get to create a big, giant evaluation tool for our school. However, I do know that in the future, I’m going to work to change my view of the evaluation process. I’m going to make sure I approach it with open arms and encourage my administration and colleagues to do the same. As the culture begins to change around evaluations, our teachers can only get better.