SYSTEMIC POLICY ISSUE
The surprise in this review was that the very things that were stated as specific strengths in her previous reviews in another school district were stated as concerns or ways her lessons did not measure up to expectations. Some of the concerns stated that her teaching was “not challenging, didn’t include the grad standards, Blooms, or higher order thinking skills, her teaching didn’t follow a pattern, and her goals didn’t apply to what the students were doing. There were positive comments as well, but it was the fact that developing lesson plans and aligning goals and teaching were such a strength in her previous district that the principal there had suggested she do a workshop for teachers to share her skills. Adding to the problem was the fact that the post-review conference took place several weeks after the lesson was observed and the teacher had not kept a copy of the pre-observation report and the principal also could not find her copy. The teacher said she had taught what she thought was a pretty typical lesson with brainstorming and cooperative learning techniques imbedded and a creative emphasis to the lesson. This led to the discussion of whether or not one teaches for the kids or for the observer and the observation. If that’s the case, do you match your teaching style to the administrator’s style? Other new teachers raised the issue of not knowing early on what is expected of them. Different schools and districts stress different models and these models change from year to year. Agendas can vary from building to building and principal to principal. The emerging role of grad standards influence on curriculum and teaching is also a question to which there seems to be mixed messages given. Then there is the stress and anxiousness of wanting to do a good job, wanting everything to go perfectly (which it never does) and trying to rehearse a lesson, something that is certainly not realistic in the day to day teaching, in order to get it right.
A teacher in this situation would feel anticipation and nervous when the administrator is around. A teacher in this situation would feel the supervisor is being unfair. A teacher in this situation may feel nervous, uncomfortable, unsure of their own abilities especially if the previous reviews don't agree with the current one. Teachers being observed always feel stressed no matter how experienced. The teacher may feel frustrated or insecure. The teacher in this situation would feel anxiety and nervous that the lesson will go well. A teacher in this situation feels anxious, nervous, questions ability, asks "Am I doing enough?", worries about every detail. Teachers in this situation may question themselves, asking if they are doing the right thing. A teacher in this situation would feel anxiety, frustrations, and be very hard on herself because these records are part of a permanent file as a first year teacher. A teacher in this situation might feel anxious and worried when expectations are unknown or unclear. A teacher in this situation may feel frustrated when there are unexpected criticisms. A teacher in this situation may feel confused because of past performance records of doing well. A teacher in this situation may feel tense, unsure and not totally prepared. A “new” teacher who is being observed by an administrator will: always be anxious, want to “perform” well, need to feel supported, not want to feel intimidated, needs a “critical friend” type feedback, wants to be prepared, hopes that students will be appropriate!, not understand expectations.
Theories behind practice:
Much that applies in evaluation and feedback for students applies in evaluation and feedback of teachers. Prompt and specific feedback has the most effect when wanting behavior changes. When there are specific criteria, clearly communicated the individual knows what to do to prepare and to perform successfully. When expectations are confused, conflicting, or missing, the individual is left only doing what they think is expected and “right.” The impact of evaluation on motivation is also worth consideration. If an individual has worked hard and attributes success to hard work and is found lacking, self concept can suffer and can affect future performance negatively. Administrators need to keep in mind that their role as evaluator is similar to the role of the teacher evaluating students and keep the same criteria in mind. It is essential to consider the effects of one’s feedback on the individual receiving it.
Impact on others:
The teacher would be wise to talk with fellow teachers about their lesson plans for the next observation to get their feedback. The teacher should make a copy of the plan and the pre-observation report and review it before the meeting with her supervisor. Schedule follow up meeting immediately for as soon after as possible. Remind yourself that you are capable, that you care, that you are contributing and that one lesson observed is only a small piece of the pie. Talk with other teachers both before and after to have a better idea of what the principal is looking for or to better understand or interpret their responses. Make and keep a copy of your lesson plan, your pre-observation report, and bring it with you to the post observation conference. Ask ahead of time what the administrator is going to be looking for. Prepare students ahead of time. Believe in yourself. Request to see the observation sheet again and make some comments about your previous experiences and the timing conditions so that the remarks are read in that context. You have the right to make comments on your report. Ask to see the evaluation form ahead of time so that you know what the administrator is working from. Work with other teachers, the union, or your principal on developing a rubric or a statement of criteria or standards. Have your mentor attend the pre-observation conference with you. Rookies don’t always know what to ask. Have your mentor look over the lesson and go over it with you before hand. Have your mentor observe the lesson along with the principal. Provide released time for mentors to observe mentee’s before the principal does to provide coaching. Really put into practice the peer coaching model. Focus on the lesson and the kids, not on the observer. Make sure you pick a time that works for YOU, one that doesn’t come at the same time you have a lot of other responsibilities or extra duties. Plant things you want the administrator to look for in the lesson plans (so they ask what you meant by something subtle, you want them to be sure to notice.) Believe in yourself.
The group decided that to be most helpful to the new teachers, we should address probationary reviews as most of the new teachers had just gone through or were about to go through their first one and it seemed of some concern to them. There was a lot of discussion by everyone there regarding the changes and the impact of the grad standards on how teachers are teaching and what they think is being expected of them. This was not limited to new teachers but to everyone there. The idea of teaching to the test or teaching for the principal was something they all had trouble with, feeling that the first concern should be the kids and what is best for them. The group involved with last months parental conflict reported on their perspectives regarding the meeting that was held and the subsequent actions of the parent. The meeting was comprised of three people, the parent, the homeroom teacher, and the gifted education teacher. It was not threatening or intimidating, but it was apparent the parent knew that the teachers were displeased. She was reported to be non-confrontational and actually on the verge of tears at times. The discussion was a caring one with the teachers talking about how they could best help this child and what role everyone should play in this. They had a list of goals and had the parent choose one goal that she would try to achieve and she also chose a teacher goal for the homeroom teacher. She agreed to work through any concerns with the homeroom teacher. The teachers left feeling it had been a good meeting and feeling relieved. However, the other teachers involved said that though she was no longer confrontational, they think the mother probably doesn’t feel any different than she did before, but she is just staying away and playing it low key. They are satisfied with that as they feel that
at least the confrontations now may be over. The child is in an advocacy class now and they all hope it will help him develop the skills he needs to speak up for himself.