Our administrators are trying to get on board with many expectations the district has of them in terms of oversight of teachers. This made me wonder how other teachers feel about administrator's evaluation techniques, collegiality with teachers, and just the plain level of trust between what the teacher says and what a student might say. Ideas? What are they like in your neck of the woods?
I am hearing how widely disparate the feedback from lesson evaluations is, and this mirrors my experience. A further point though - does it make a difference? I spent time fretting over my first evaluation at a new school where I had excellence for 4 categories and only good for 2, with no clear feedback on how to reach excellence in the other areas. Then I discovered that some colleagues around me (superiors included) were scoring concerns or even not being rated on the scale due to having a 'bad day'. My professionalism makes me strive for excellence, but it is not reflected in my salary or working conditions.
Do others find the evaluations demoralising, demotivating or irrelevant?
When administrators have spent only three years in the classroom, and they have been band teachers or drivers' education or physical education instructors, they seem to be lacking in the knowledge of the dynamics of other types of classrooms. How do they know what to evaluate other than classroom management? And, when the principal is a politico as well, it is truly difficult for the conscientious teacher who does not socialize with "those that count" to receive a fair evaluation.
Why not let the bureaucrats in the state departments who compose the evaluation forms do some observing?
I have had a great experience with my administrators, but the evaluation process doesn't seem to help. I know that administrators have to follow a certain format, but the feedback I received didn't help much. I also think it's unfair for an entire evaluation to be based on one observation of 50 minutes. There are so many factors that can influence a class period and a one-time observation doesn't reflect a teacher's effectiveness. I don't think it's the administrator's fault; it's the evaluation process itself. Administrators are busy people and have dozens of evaluations to do. I just think that a teacher's evaluation should be based on several observations throughout the year.
Short "walk throughs" seem to have become the norm in my area. These visits are no more than 10 minutes in length and involve a short checklist of things the evaluator is looking for when he/she visits. (Over time, the items on the checklist change.)
Following the visit, each teacher gets a short report of what the evaluator saw and praise for what items from the checklist were witnessed and also a few Socratic questions to think about how the teacher might add the elements that were not witnessed.
I'm sure it's a quick and easy way for administrators to observe teachers in a systematic and fairly objective manner, but I'd prefer a more honest, open, and "organic" evaluation.
The problem with administrators evaluating teachers is that they have not been in a classroom teaching for quite some time. They have forgotten what it is like to actually teach. I feel that all adminstrators, including superintendents, should be required to teach one class every year in order to maintain a better conection with teachers.
I have had good and poor administrators. One of the administrators wrote me a fantastic evaluation the first year I was at her school and the second year wrote a horrible one. My teaching was basically the same both years, my classroom was immaculate when she came, and she had all the lesson plans.
I know that the second year, she had let personal opinions get in the way of the evaluation. The school was close to closing due to financial situations and students had asked me questions about this. I often referred them to the administration for answers, but the adminstration would not answer their straight forward questions. The students would come to me with facts and calculations and concerns. If they were getting no answers, I would try to help them justify the work they had done and this annoyed the administrator. As a side note, as soon as her son graduated, she found a more secure job, outside of the school.
I think good administrators are aware of the real difficulties in teaching. Like any good boss - it is helpful when an administrator has also been through the trenches, has come out successfully, and can come in and make realistic suggestions for improvement (even minor is okay with me) with ALL teachers. I don't actually prefer a laid-back approach. I would rather an administrator come into my very worst class and help me see areas that I'm missing.
Comments that have clearly come off a checklist (ie: didn't post lesson objective) to me are silly. Give me some feedback I can actually use. And please - confront problems that actually need to be confronted.
I have to be honest, I think most principals let too many teachers get away with having terribly disorganized and messy classrooms. I don't buy this "that's just his/her style" excuse. If we are trying to prepare our students for college - organization and due date and personal responsibility - how does it look when our classrooms look like bomb shelters?
Evaluations? Well, I have had one in my two years of teaching in my present school, which consisted in my Principal wandering in late, leaving the class early, and scrawling a few haphazard comments on a bit of paper and ticking a few boxes. I have to agree with #4 - peer evaluation is SO much more useful, especially if they have the same grade.
In 17 years of teaching, I have had one Administrator that offered what I felt was more than cursory comments or feedback. For the most part, they have 90 some evaluations to do per year, and a deadline to complete them by. This has usually seemed to be their primary concern. Can't blame them, as they have a ridiculous number of dog trots to take care of in the course of a year.
I would consider several of my fellow teachers to be very professional and the colleagues I discuss teaching, learning and students with. Those kind of relationships and their feedback has been much more valuable than any kind of administrator evaluations I have received.
In 25 years of teaching, I have had one fantastic principal (he is now a county superintendent and one of the highest paid public school administrators in the country); one good principal; one average principal; one poor principal; and one TERRIBLE principal. The latter administrator could not evaluate fairly or without allowing her personal feelings into the mix. I felt the other four principals evaluated fairly and professionally. Several of the principals, however, were more likely to accept a student's word over the teacher's. Several were very personable and engaged socially with their teachers; others were woefully lacking in this respect.
As far as evaluations go, ours are pretty low-key, but I just recently heard a teacher say he "trots out the dog-and-pony show" when they come. Just last week (the first week of school) I had a surprise, informal evaluation, which resulted in one negative comment: I didn't have my lesson objective written on the board. This, after several comments of praise. Also, I've never written a lesson objective on the board (this was an AP class as well-they were writing an in-class essay). I felt as though he was merely looking for something on which to fault me...or being incredibly nit-picky.
On the whole, I would say our administration is highly inefficient. Their only goal seems to be completing the day without speaking to anyone or solving a problem. There are exceptions, but I usually avoid interaction as much as possible. Not that they aren't personable, pleasant people-they are. It just feels pointless to attempt to bring them in on anything. Having said that, our principal is wonderful with the students...for the same reason he's not very effective with the teachers. He aims to have everyone as his friend, and so seeks to please above all else.