Here it comes!
Evaluation time is here. Even experienced teachers meet this time with dread. Will your students perform well? Will you get nervous and forget what to do? Will the classroom take on an unfamiliar tone and ruin your carefully planned lesson? There are just too many variables to tell.
Evaluations should really be called “judgments” because that is how you will probably feel: judged. New teachers get a whole slew of evaluations, both announced and unannounced. Every teacher is aware that his or her career, the whole reason for that $65,000 student loan debt and 5 years of college to get a job that pays less than $45,000 a year and requires hours of cheerful unpaid overtime every single day, hangs in the balance.
It can be excruciating if your administrator does not particularly like you. You might see a colleague, who you know is less than diligent, walk out of the post-evaluation meeting with a big smile and a fistful of 5’s on the evaluation sheet. While you, who had to say no to chaperoning the dance because your sister was getting married, struggled with a sheet loaded with 3s, after you did a knockout lesson. Unfair? Absolutely. But it can work that way. Sometimes you have a great administrator and sometimes you don’t.
How it Works
My new administrator told us during the “before the school year starts” staff development days, that she did not want to see a “dog and pony show” when she evaluates. With all due respect to her, she was a classroom teacher and understands what evaluation should be, I will be blatantly ignoring that request and so should you. Here is why. You have 20 minutes to an hour to give evidence of about 50 different standards in your teaching and in your classroom during an evaluation. If the evaluator doesn’t see the evidence, the evaluator cannot give you the “meets expectation” score, even if that standard is something you regularly incorporate into your lessons, just not in every lesson.
Let’s take technology, for instance. Every lesson during the week may not utilize the computer and projector. However, there is a little box that the evaluator has to put a number in on the evaluation rubric. It says, “integrates technology” or something of that sort. If you don’t show it, that’s a 1 or maybe a 2. By nature, your evaluated lessons must hit all the boxes.
Expect the Unexpected
How do you plan for the unannounced visit? Check your evaluation rubric for the most important points. Look carefully at the headings. Make a list. If admin comes into the room during the evaluation window and sits down, make sure you present some evidence of everything on that rubric. Am I saying alter your lesson? Absolutely. It can be a one line statement, a critical thinking question you might not have asked at that moment, or a quick move to incorporate a video clip while the evaluator is there.
How to Wow
Here are some things to always have visible in your room:
Your standards, “can do” statements, or success criteria (whichever your district uses)
Your discipline method (Name on board, clip chart, positive behavior place, whatever)
Some student work. Every week, have the students produce something you can post.
An organized classroom. Turn-in box, supplies, teacher’s editions, whiteboard markers
When your evaluation is happening, make sure your students are engaged. Show off how they know the procedures, have extra work ready that they can pair up on. Word searches and crosswords are great. Simplify your point so that it is very clear. Check for understanding before letting them go on independent work. Have extra sharpened pencils ready – no need to be distracted by such a simple thing. Keep these in your desk. Erasers too.
Make sure your lesson has a beginning, middle and end. If this is an announced evaluation, take time to neaten your room beforehand. Clean and shiny doesn’t hurt in sales.
Keep it in Perspective
Evaluations are supposed to be helpful feedback. Every Principal is supposed to visit every classroom regularly so they know your teaching, not just 45 minutes on one day. However, if you have a K-5 school, where each level has 4 teachers, that makes 24 classrooms. If the Principal were to visit for 30 minutes in each classroom, that would be 12 hours. I laugh when I think of it. No Principal has 12 hours a week for “friendly visits.” Even 6 hours every week would be a huge push. So you are likely to be judged, I mean evaluated, on two to three visits to your classroom, your students’ test scores, and whether you seem to be a likable, organized team player who can persuade parents you are the best teacher for their children.
So, sit down with those standards for the teaching profession early on. Make things work double where you can. Take a deep breath, smile. You will come through this just fine.