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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Evaluate me, please.

There's a lot of angst and bewailing regarding teacher evaluations. Proclamations of doom and gloom accompanied with fiercely proclaimed polemics railing against the evils of school administrators and districts who believe that teachers should be held accountable for their work. To them I say, get over it.

I am a teacher with absolutely no desire to further my career by going in to administration. My sole ambition is to teach and I want to be evaluated. Please, come into my classroom. Talk to my students, ask them what they've learned. Look at the portfolio of their work. Check the value added to my students over the course of the year with standardized tests. Examine the materials I create and use. Video tape me. Any way you want to evaluate me, I'm ready for it. I am a professional who takes pride in my work.

I totally get why there is concern over evaluation. No one likes to be judged and have their competence examined. Almost every single individual out there suffers from some level of 'imposter syndrome' - the fear that some day they'll find out that I really don't know what I am doing. I feel it too. Additionally, there is the antagonistic, blindly oppositional, union-driven diatribe that feeds those inherent fears in teachers. (no thank you Diane Ravitch)

But the truth of the matter is, there are a lot of really bad teachers out there. Last year I was laid off while at least two clearly incompetent teachers in my school were retained. I've seen this over and over, where student's educational progress suffers due to horrible teachers keeping their jobs merely because of tenure and last in, first out policies.

So, evaluate me. It doesn't take very long in my classroom to find out that I am doing exemplary work. I work hard to make sure that I provide the best resources for learning and implement things I know to be best practices. It is easy to see my passion and effort. Teaching is not just a paycheck (although I am driven by that too), it is my vocation.

Over the last seven years of my teaching career I have been observed many times in many ways. My first year, as a teacher in a brand new school, visitors were trotted through constantly. I worked in a program where we video taped and critiqued each other's lessons. I have also taught in magnet schools where prospective parents and interested observers showed up at any time. News crews and cameras have been through my room interviewing me and my students. In my current school the principal is in my room for unscheduled informal and formal observations almost every week - and I like it. The truth is I still get nervous, but I know it makes me a better teacher. I know that we all have blind spots. We cannot fix what we don't know is broken. I would rather have one honest critic excoriate me, than a dozen friends overlook my faults. I ask my students for feedback too, and sometimes that's a bitter pill to swallow.

If you're afraid of being observed, ask yourself, 'why?' I understand the fear. Its perfectly natural. Just last week the principal popped his head in and I was momentarily unsettled. Not because I was doing anything wrong, but because it was the first week of school and I was still trying to get my feet underneath me. It's okay to feel that way, but it's not okay to let those feelings overwhelm us. Let your work speak for itself. When you are a competent teacher, it is quite obvious - and the inverse is true as well.

If you are not a competent teacher, then do something about it. Make changes. Work harder. Get some help. It's not about you, it's about the future of your students and society at large. Don't give in to the embittered, short-sighted political tirades of the Diane Ravitches of this world. Ask to be evaluated by students, parents, peers, and administrators - and make changes.

If you're not going to do that, do us all a favor and get out of the profession. You're ruining lives and you make those of us who really believe in the profession look bad. I'm tired of being tarred with your brush.