Friday, April 13, 2012

5 Tips to Plan for a Great Teacher Evaluation

For many teachers across the country, annual evaluations are mysterious. Every state, every district uses a different tool to determine teacher effectiveness and rate their teachers on different scales. Sometimes teachers are unsure as to why they are rated the way they are. I've seen many a tear in the teachers' lounge during evaluation season. There is incredible anxiety inherent in this process, especially for new teachers who are still trying to get their "teaching legs" under them. They have the knowledge, they are gaining the skills, but putting it all together is no easy feat.

We're coming to the end of this school, and now is actually the time to begin planning for next year. In anticipation of the coming evaluation, consider these tips to plan for a great teacher evaluation:

  1. Be teachable!This is most important. If you do not have a teachable spirit, you will not be open to new ideas and new ways of doing what you already do. We all know how difficult it is to motivate or teach a student who does not have a willing and teachable spirit; put on a teachable spirit so that you are willing and motivated to improve.
  2. Set your own goals! Before an administrator or mentor teacher ask you to, set your own personal and professional development goals. Take ownership of this process from the very beginning. If you are proactive, it is less likely you will feel the expectations are unreasonable or irrelevant. Take stock of your own inventory of knowledge, skills, and attitudes and then purposely set measurable goals that reflect your own improvement and that of your students.
  3. Be prepared with a rationale! It's critical that you ask yourself why you're doing what you're doing before someone else does. If you are employing a practice unlike that of your colleagues, you will need to provide the rationale for that choice. What is the research/evidence base of your choice? How do you monitor its effectiveness? 
  4. Collect evidence of your effectiveness! Even if no one expects you to, maintain a teaching portfolio that is organized by the expectations set forth by your evaluation. Collect artifacts from your classroom that display your effectiveness with students. 
  5. Monitor your own progress! Conduct strategic and periodic checks for hod w well you are meeting those personal and professional development goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the school year. How will you know you are progressing? Provide data, artifacts, and other evidence of your progress. Reflect on how well you are doing and even consider keeping a teaching journal that narrates your progress. If you discover that you are not progressing as well as you had planned, change your strategy and then re-evaluate your progress. A reflective teacher is highly valued!
The common theme in all of these tips is to take responsibility for your own evaluation. It is proactive and not reactive. A self study of your own practice now will go a long way to securing a positive evaluation no matter what tools your district uses to document your effectiveness! Take ownership of the process!

Teach well - always!