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?

1 comment:

  1. Well, here I am again with maybe a little too much to say. Anyway, the subject of evaluating teachers and the method used is an important one, especially with all of the changes occurring in state laws. During my many years of teaching in Montclair I have had numerous administrators evaluate me. Some of my evaluations were very objective detailed descriptions of my lesson. Others were somewhat subjective and critical. I also had a couple of self-evaluations requested of me, which I didn't know what to make of at the time . I think a good combination of all of the above should be a part of a teacher evaluation. Would I want the details of my lesson included in my evaluation? Yes, since it is good way to look back on what was included in the lesson. Would I want someone to critique my lesson? Yes, as long as it is done to help me improve. Positive suggestions can be helpful and give me more insight. Would I want to have the opportunity to self-evaluate? When that happened many years ago, it baffled me. Looking back, many times I would say after being evaluated that "I wish I had done something differently, or included something that I didn't. So, yes, I think we should all have the opportunity to have our own reflections on the lesson included and self-evaluate. Do I get nervous when I am being observed? Absolutely!! After all of these years, I am still nervous when I know I will be under the watchful eye of an administrator. I think that is a natural thing. I know full well that we all need to have some feedback to keep us on track and help us improve. However, it still makes me nervous. Would I want to evaluate my colleagues? As I said once before, that would be very difficult for me to do, having experienced that previously during an experimental summer session. Sharing ideas in a more informal way is a better way to learn from our colleagues and help each other. Enough said!!!