Monday, February 14, 2011

Flying Blind

Each morning before I go to work I look at myself in the mirror. I'm certain I'm not alone in this practice. Without admitting all of the vanity behind why each of us stands there, we can all agree that is is some form of assessment. After that moment, I have found, that we very seldomly evaluate ourselves. The remainder of our days' are on autopilot. Is there a danger in flying blind?

The practice of evaluating teachers was not originated as a punitive process aimed at firing ineffective teachers. It was designed as a system of feedback to better are practice. Yet many of fear the day we are asked to be under the administration's microscope. There is a discomfort in having someone critique what we do. Why? Do we feel something bad will come of it? Are we afraid of the truth (Which by the way for all of you pessimists doesn't mean anything is wrong)?

On the flip side, our students walk into class everyday under our microscope. We evaluate and provide feedback on everything they do right down to calling out without raising their hand (someone just popped into your head). Do we give them the same consideration we want or need during our evaluations? As a mentor to student teachers do you give the same type of considerations when providing feedback? Do you provide feedback (seriously)? Aren't we just trying to better their practice?

The Power of Teaching tool and the Montclair Teacher Evaluation Form are just two instruments designed to provide feedback for your classroom behaviors. Many of your comments defined them as "very different", which is true. While many suggested that the Power of Teaching tool was "better", I feel the true worth of an evaluation tool is how it is used. You can own a top of the line hammer, but if your using it to turn screws you're not going to maximize its potential. I do however, agree with your additional comments which described the Power of Teaching evaluation process as "more specific and objective." Furthermore, you stated that the "Montclair tool is general, while the Power of Teaching instrument clearly defines positive and negative behaviors." It is this quality of spelling out what is an effective teaching strategy and what is an ineffective teaching strategy that makes it a powerful tool. It provides a vocabulary and a language for us to discuss teaching and nothing gets lost in translation.

I guess my point here is that we shouldn't mind stepping in front of the mirror more often. An evaluation of our practice should be a constructive practice which is targeted at bettering ourselves. Coaching even the best of us is necessary for growth. After all isn't that the philosophy behind enrichment?

I have the privilege of evaluating teachers because of my position. It makes me better at what I do to watch all of you. In my opinion, one of the best tools out there for training new teachers is to watch teachers and to be able to provide feedback. Let's not be scared to take off the blindfolds and start the conversations. What do you think?