Ask An Expert: Taking the Stress Out of Teacher Evaluations
Question: I am a recent college graduate and I am gearing up for my first year of teaching. I was well trained by my professors, but the thing that scares me the most is being evaluated, mainly because so much depends on the personality of the evaluator. Can you shed some light on the teacher evaluation process? Veronica R.
Answer: First of all, thank you for your question and congratulations on landing your first teaching job. For many new teachers, the fear of being evaluated is a clear and present danger; not because they lack confidence, but because of the fear of the unknown. Hopefully, by explaining the process in depth, I can help alleviate some of your anxiety. Each school system has a process for measuring and evaluating their teachers. In most districts, all teachers are evaluated by an administrator and are given feedback at least once annually. New teachers, however, typically have more than one evaluation. This section will give you an overview of what to expect before, during, and after an evaluation, as well as how to prepare for each.
Prior to an evaluation
Before an evaluation, most administrators will schedule a time with you, and some of those administrators will even let you choose the class that you know will be the most likely to shine the best light on your skills as a teacher. Here is a quick checklist of ways to prepare for the evaluation.
- Ask for the rubric they will be using. The rubric allows the administrators to score each teacher equally and accurately by looking for specific skills and dispositions during the lesson. Knowing what they will be looking for will allow you to cover all of your bases.
- Consider the audience before choosing a topic. Know the educational interests of the administrator. Were they a math teacher? Or a special needs teacher? Are they a proponent of technology? Think about what you know about them personally and professionally and consider their interests when selecting a subject, a topic, and a time of day.
- Choose an easy topic. You do not want to choose a topic that you know is difficult for some students to grasp. For example, introduction to long division may not be the best topic, because you know that it is a multi-step process that is difficult to grasp for some students.
- Prepare a detailed lesson plan. The lesson plan for an evaluation is not your typical everyday lesson plan. It is the extended version that includes details, commentary, and all of the bells and whistles that go along with it. Be sure to include the objectives, materials needed, an introduction, developmental activities, a closing, accommodations, an assessment, etc.
- Prepare your class. Talk to your students about what to expect. Let them know who is coming and explain why. Let them know that they will be rewarded for their good behavior. It might not be a bad idea to do a practice run and pretend that you are being evaluated prior to the scheduled evaluation. This may all seem like window dressing, but it will help to put your mind at ease.
- Prepare your classroom. De-clutter, decorate, and clean everything. Be sure to have your desk cleared in case she wants to sit there to evaluate.
- Be flexible. Administrators are always busy. In addition, unexpected meetings come up, students misbehave and must be attended to at inopportune times, and some type of paperwork is always being thrown at them. If she must reschedule, just simply put aside your prepared lesson until another day.
During an evaluation
- If you are thoroughly prepared for your evaluation as described above, the evaluation itself should be a breeze.
- Remember that they have probably already figured out that you are an effective teacher. They want you to do well. They want the students to do well. They are not out to get you or hurt your career.
- Relax! Again, they are not looking for an excuse to fire you. Just relax and do the best you can do.
- Write your objectives on the board. Self explanatory.
- Have fun! Having fun yourself will engage the administrator and the students alike.
- Discipline as you always would. If a student misbehaves, be careful not to overreact. You will not get a lower score because your students are children and occasionally misbehave.
After an evaluation
Be prepared for feedback and constructive criticism. Administrators do not intend to tear you down and are not out to get you.
- Thank them for their feedback and honesty.
- Never argue! It will only lessen their opinion of you.
- Sincerely apply their suggestions to your teaching styles.
If you follow my advice, the teacher evaluation process will be a breeze. Remember, evaluations are meant to gauge your teaching effectiveness, not as a pretense to get rid of you. Even if you score poorly during your first year, your evaluations will be used by your administrator to help you create an improvement plan. Well, good luck to you and remember, relax!
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This article speaks the truth about how administrators can reduce the stress that comes with teacher evaluations. With so much pressure being put on teacher performance right now, many new teachers really are “scared” of this.
However, those new teachers need to understand that if they do the best they can all day, every day, then an evaluation should only help them to become better teachers.
I believe the hardest part for me is to hear the constructive criticism and then trying to apply the suggestions my principal makes. I’ve been a teacher for awhile now and it seems that when a new principal comes in he or she has a different set of standards they want me to teach by. Difficult to take sometimes.
Are teacher evaluations really effective in evaluating how a teacher actually teaches? If they take the suggestions in this article like consider the topic, ask for a rubric, etc. . . aren’t they just showboating. The students also act differently when the principal or other administrator is in the room. How effective are teacher evaluations anyway?
While I agree that new teachers should have a detailed lesson plan prepared, I do not agree with telling students you are being being evaluated. Depending on what age group you teach, this could actually have a negative rather than a positive impact on your evaluation. Also, I think a new teacher should have a back up lesson, in case the lesson they prepared does not go according to plan. Also, I have never had an evaluator sit at my desk to evaluate me. In fact, they choose the most inconspicuous spot in the room or they choose to join the students in the activity, but never have I had an evaluator sit at my desk. Why would they? Depending on where the teacher’s desk is in the room, that could actually make the evaluator become the focal point which is not what he/she wants at all. I would also add that new teachers should always try to align themselves with a mentor at their school. Someone who teaches the same grade/content/discipline/etc., this way, they have someone they can go to prior to an evaluation to discuss any issues or questions, and they can debrief afterward as well.