This post is part of a series that the amazing John Bernia and I started last week in order to try to bridge the seemingly great divide there can be between teachers and administration. Please head over to John’s blog to see his counter post.
Dear Mr. Bernia,
So you want to talk about evaluations? Don’t you know that this happens to be one of my most favorite things to discuss? No seriously. It didn’t used to be that way, not at all in fact, but since switching jobs, I happen to love being evaluated. There is one big reason for that love; I trust my principal inherently. I also admire her a great deal. She is knowledgable, she is honest, and most importantly, she is human. When she is in my room, I don’t feel judged, I feel supported. When she meets with me, I feel like she shares the same purpose I do; doing what is best for kids, and so everything she says I reflect on and try to work through to become better. I wish every teacher had a principal like Shannon Anderson.
But the truth is, some don’t. In fact, I had never had a principal actually give me several things to work on before I met Mrs. Anderson. And not because I was a perfect teacher by any means but because in previous evaluations they always caught my class and me on a great day; the show day, where the kids were prepped, I had planned for hours, and everything just worked. One of those days where everything was so smooth it felt like it was rehearsed, and it almost was. That’s what tends to happen when observations are scheduled and never a random visit. When principals are too busy with administrative things to just come by your room. But with new educator effectiveness, the increase in needed observations (which I do genuinely feel bad about for all administrators), we are no longer just being observed on those special days. Evaluations and observations happen all of the time, and I love it.
So to answer your question; no, evaluations are not just another thing. They shouldn’t be at least. They should be a chance for you to grow, to reflect, and to question why you are doing what you are doing. Evaluations should be formal and informal and happen as often as possible. I always have an open door policy to our classroom; I am not afraid of what people will see even if it is not a perfect lesson. And that’s it, isn’t it? When we trust our administrators. When we believe that they genuinely care for us, the kids, and the art of teaching, then we lose our fear of the evaluation. When I believe that you, the administrator, has something valuable to add that will help me grow, then I welcome you in. When I believe that you are knowledgable, connected to others, and also a constant learner, then I am ready to listen.
So please come by any time. See the amazing things the students are doing and tell me how to become better. I am not perfect, nor will I ever be, so I need help growing. I need questions to reflect on so I can continue to push myself. I need someone who is invested in the art of teaching that may not have the answer to every question but can point me in the right direction. I know it is a lot to ask, but you are right; together we are better if both of us are willing to grow.
I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark, who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. The second edition of my first book “Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.
3 thoughts on “Dear Administrators, Yes, Please, Let’s Talk About Evaluations…”
This post simultaneously strikes terror into me and inspires me. I’ve been formally evaluated exactly once in ten years of teaching. Fortunately that was a very positive experience. In all reality, after ten years, I’m okay with being evaluated now, if it were to happen, but I can empathize with new teachers being evaluated–not knowing why and how and to what means. What a vulnerable place to be in. We all want to help kids learn, but come from such widely different perspectives that we don’t always agree with the best way to make that happen. What happens if my administrator doesn’t agree with what I feel is best for kids? What if I’m too traditional? What if I’m too forward thinking?
I think you nailed it in saying that trust is key. We need to all trust that we are doing our best, support each other in moving toward even better practice, and embrace the diversity of each of us coming at it from a different perspective. What richness of education kids get when your best practices are different than my best practices, and your strengths support my weaknesses, and vise versa!
How lucky you are to be in a trusting place. A teacher I used to work with sent me a note recently about how she misses the days when we could share and teach and learn together. How is it that we as a profession have allowed so many teachers to fear a process that can be used for growth and reflection? Empowering teachers to ask questions and approach the process of an evaluation as a peer might enable more colleagues to look forward to the feedback without trepidation.
Does anyone know how pre-service teachers are being taught about this process?
I do envy your current position of trusting your administrator to evaluate you. Most administrators seem to have little to no experience in early childhood and are supporting the push down curriculum that has become so popular. Many are giving advice that is not supported by best practices research and are buying into departmentalizing Kindergarten and standardized testing as a way of promoting/showing growth. Sadly, It is becoming increasingly difficult to find knowledgeable administrators in early childhood.