It's Time for Teacher Evaluation and It's Only September!
The process of teacher evaluation is most often thought of as end of the year work. Many use the observation to build up to the final, annual evaluation when a teacher's performance is rated. It is all about accountability. But, what about teaching and learning and growing and improving? Those are what we want for students, isn't it? How does it makes sense to have teachers work with students in an environment where students learn and grow and improve if teachers and their leaders are not engaged in that process themselves? It makes no sense.
Building a community of educators who are engaged in teaching each other, learning from each other and from others outside of the school walls to improve practice is the leader's work. Success cannot come from random teaching or training unless there has been a process established that includes vision and goals and objectives that are known and shared. Even if the observation and evaluation process is linked to a rubric, if those being evaluated and those evaluating do not spend time making the connections between the rubric and the direction of the school or district, value is lost. Collective forward motion is diminished.
Surely, leaders have begun the year already with a focus on the year's goals. Maybe some have even had a conversation about the dreams that might be realized with an infusion of energy and resources. To what big change or accomplishment can the school community as a whole commit and how will it happen? The skills or talents that individual teacher might merit acknowledgment as the faculty gathers as a professional community. Then, we ask what they'd like to learn and bring to students. This is not a matter of counting or rating or evaluating. This is about the business of targeted professional growth.
When the school and district faculty and leaders are growing together, and learning can be from each other, and small successes can be celebrated, morale rises. Students and parents can feel it. If it is a teaching method, meeting protocols, communication standards, or a new technology, one and done does not work. No one grows. Wheels spin. Success is random. It is not good for students.
The truth ...and leaders will tell you this...the observation and evaluation is exhausting. Done well, it requires the highest level of professional knowledge and skill as well as the highest level of interpersonal understanding and relationships that one can rally. It can be, when time allows, a meaningful and growth and rewarding experience for all.
How many can say that through the observation and evaluation process teaching and learning has improved and students were the beneficiaries? What if the year's work was posed as a problem? How will the observation and evaluation process help to move the building closer to the horizon line? Problem based learning is motivating and engaging for students. Why wouldn't it be so for the adults teaching them? If the overarching goals, targets, objectives for the year or for a series of years are shared, communicated, and supported, the seeds for understanding, sharing, and collaborating are sewn. This can help the environment move from one where observations and evaluations fail provide rich and meaningful conversations that lead to improved practice and student success to one that does.
Photo by Grzeorz Kula courtesy of 123rf