Teacher evaluation is a very hot topic across the country right now. I think many of us would agree, educators and the public alike, that there should be a change. For too long a teacher was simply evaluated by a classroom visit by an administrator a few times a year. In fact, I can remember that during my second and third year of teaching, I wasn’t evaluated in person at all. (Not to toot my own horn here, but the reasoning mostly had to do with my administration trusting me and my classroom management after observing me in my first year.) The reality is that effective evaluations are needed, but where we meet real friction is what makes a fair and viable evaluation of an educator.
My school recently held a lunch and learn just a few weeks ago where we covered this very topic. The mood in the room had a tangible tension to it as we listened to a few of our colleagues explain how teacher effectiveness would soon be measured. I wish I could honestly say I remembered all the details and that I had the data to share with you all, but I didn’t take notes. (I’m not always the student I wish my students were, ya know?) What I can tell you, is that for the most part, I agreed with my colleagues who spoke that day, and one particular truth that my friend Lindsay said hit home with me. She said, and I’m paraphrasing here, if we honestly reflect on ourselves, we all would understand that we have weaknesses we need to improve. Like it or not, she is certainly right. Many of us are up in arms about evaluations and their potential tie to our pay, but again the truth remains that we do need to be evaluated more effectively, and we do need real time for self-reflection on how to improve our teaching and mentoring practice.
In the world of project-based learning, we ask our students to evaluate themselves all the time during and after a project. Shouldn’t we be doing the same? It can be hard to face yourself in a mirror and say what is wrong, not on the outside, but on the inside. Still, it has been shown time and time again that evaluating yourself (judging outcomes and goals) is one of the highest forms of learning.
Teacher evaluations are changing, whether we like it or not. The question remains though–are we ready to reflect on ourselves as we’ve asked our students to?