Wednesday, March 24, 2021
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
The Evaluation MindshiftBy, Michael EarnshawMarch 2, 2021@MikeREarnshaw@PunkClassrooms
March is the month that wraps up “Evaluation Season.” Whether you are tenured or non, on cycle or not, sometime in early/mid March is when teachers’ evaluations needs to be complete and signed off on. There has always been, and unfortunately always will be, the mindset of many educators that evaluations are a “gotcha,” or a hoop that needs to be jumped through. This belief in evaluations will only be ceased if and when administrators begin to prove that they believe in the true meaning behind evaluations: GROWTH.
We’ve all been in the teacher’s workroom either hearing our colleagues, or maybe even ourselves, breathing a sigh of relief that our evaluation for the year has been completed. This pure scene, that we are all guilty of, proves that it is the belief that evaluations are an act, a performance, that is scheduled once or twice a year, to show a school administrator that you are the most engaging, creative, fun, and top-notch teacher that has blessed our students. There’s nothing wrong with striving to prove those qualities, they are exactly what will help to improve our students’ lives for the long haul. But if those need to be displayed on a scheduled date or two with an administrator, that admin is not fully doing their job correctly.
A shift in this negative evaluation mindset needs to start with modeling from those completing the evaluation. Principals, assistant principals, deans, and district office administrators are typically those that complete teacher evaluations. It’s precisely these individuals that hold the power to transforming the teacher evaluation landscape for educators everywhere! Here are a few approaches that need to be made to begin a new era.
- Visit Classrooms Regularly. To truly know what is happening in our classrooms we need to visit them regularly and consistently. How can anyone justify that rating a teacher’s entire school year on one or two officially scheduled dates is fair? Evaluators need to know what happens day in and day out, the good, the bad, and the argyle. These are the days where the magic happens and those unexpected pockets of learning are bursting at the seams! If evaluators are not consistently in classrooms they will miss these moments. Another benefit of getting into classrooms regularly is that it helps to create a comfortable, trusting relationship. The more an evaluator is in a room the more fluid each visit becomes. The air doesn’t stiffen when an evaluator enters if it happens regularly. What happens is that the evaluator becomes another member of the class, an active participant! Try getting into every teacher’s room at least once a week for 10-20 minutes.
- Positive Post-Its. Never ever just leave a classroom without providing some form of feedback. No matter how many times you’ve visited, no matter how comfortable the teacher has become with you being there, if you leave without providing any feedback it can begin to chip away at the trust you’ve established. These are informal classroom visits, so your feedback does not need to be entered in your online evaluation tool or sent in an email. That makes the purpose of these visits now seem very formalized. Instead, leave a small Post-It note behind. Jot down the amazing and impressive things you observed that teacher doing. This is to help build them up, acknowledge their strengths, and expand on them. Now if there was something extremely detrimental that needs to be addressed that can be done in the online evaluation system or an email. Let the Post-Its always state the positives.
- The Collaboration Comfort Zone Crushing Crew. The entire point of evaluations is the help promote teacher growth. Evaluators must be a part of this process. Educators are all guilty of sometimes not seeing their true potential. They get comfortable where they’re at, approaching their lessons with what works for THEM. Evaluators must begin to push their teachers out of their comfort zones. Evaluators must model that risk-taking is accepted and encouraged. When evaluators engage in conversations with their teachers where they’re bragging on their strengths and positives, nudging them to leave their comfort zones with new lessons and activities, there is always one question the evaluator must ask, “How can I help?” After that question is asked and answered, it’s imperative that the evaluator follow-through on this. This team approach will build confidence and comfort in continually leaving comfort zones, and more importantly, a trusting and collaborative relationship.
Imagine the difference our classrooms would look and feel like if both administrators and teachers took advantage of the powerful opportunity of growth with evaluations? This reality is within reach. It will not happen overnight, it will take some time and dedication on the administrator's end, but it will be worth it for everyone involved, especially our kids.