The dreaded formal observation window has arrived for many of us. I say “dreaded” somewhat tongue in cheek. I have worked in a few different schools in my career, and have seen a variety in methods for administrators to evaluate teachers. This is a time where teachers will often get themselves all worked up, and prepare the proverbial dog and pony show.
Take a look at many blogs or on Twitter and you will see post after post about how unfair it is for evaluations to be done in the manner in which they are done. Today, I saw a comparison of teaching with a principal watching to drawing with an audience. The image that accompanied the sentiment made it obvious. The author felt that teachers teach better with no one watching, or at least, with no one in authority watching. Thus providing my inspiration for today’s post.
I take exception to that. Yes, I understand that teachers tend to get nervous when administrators come into the room. I should say, new teachers do. Personally, I welcome visits from administrators. I do what I do every day. I don’t do a dog and pony show just during my evaluation window. Therein lies the problem. If a teacher spends the majority of their time doing what they know the principal would not approve of, thus forcing a dog and pony show during appraisal week, that should be a concern. If a teacher gets so stressed out that someone is going to walk into the room and judge them. That is worrisome.
The idea that a teacher should be able to teach without an audience is absurd. We teach with an audience every day. What difference should one extra person make in our method? Teachers must be evaluated somehow. While I might not think the current system is perfect, it is far from the worst it could be. We certainly don’t want evaluations to be based on state/common core test scores. Some states have a ‘growth formula’ to indicate whether students make the appropriate growth, we fight against using that as well. Generally, teachers tend to fight against virtually all forms of evaluation. We complain that our administrator doesn’t have the teaching experience to judge them. What we fail to see is that as we fight against the system which we choose to work within. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have to adhere to it. No matter what system is developed, leave it to teachers to find reasons it won’t work. Bear in mind, however, that these are the same teachers who don’t listen to students or parents about how fair a test is that has been given. Ironic.
I hear teachers often complain that they are so tired, their feet hurt, etc. as a result of teaching the week of their evaluation. Does that imply that teacher only really teaches one week of the school year? If so, that should scare you. If what you do for that one week is so taxing on you that you need days off afterward, there should be some reflection happening on the teacher’s part.
There is an easy solution to having such anxiety during this time. Teach. Not just this week, not next, but every week. Teach like you want to be there. Teach like you want your kids to be there. Like Dave Burgess says, make kids want to run to your class. If you are doing what is best for kids, it will be evident. You will grow comfortable with others being in your classroom. In fact, you may be inclined to invite them in. My one warning if you decide to do this… be prepared to buy good shoes, you will need them.