The First Year Teaching: Taking your first year evaluation seriously
By Matthew Lynch
As a new teacher, be aware that there are evaluations by school principals or other administrators that you must endure. Such evaluations may bring about anxiety for some new teachers. The evaluators are responsible for assessing new teachers’ performance and the frequency of assessment differs not only by the district regulations, but also by individual differences in evaluators. The number of visits for evaluation range from once a year to once every month, but on average new teacher evaluations are quarterly.
Rehiring, termination and even merit pay largely depend on this evaluation, so it is important for you to have a good idea of how you will be evaluated. Some preparation work is necessary and this is your responsibility. Check the education department website to see how the visits are arranged in the local area, and also seek advice from your mentor teacher on what evaluators are looking for during the assessment. After the evaluation, you will receive feedback. Take this feedback very seriously, because it provides ideas on how to strengthen your skills and improve your weaker areas.
Quantitative and Qualitative Evaluation
The principal or the evaluating team determines the performance criteria, with evaluations often focused on whether you are able to create and sustain an effective learning environment for your students. A quantitative approach simply looks at how many times a teacher undertakes certain actions such as questioning, praising, critiquing and more. Another quantitative approach involves the evaluator taking a quick look at each student for about 20 seconds and recording their activities. For example, Amy was concentrated on the task; Ben was disturbing the students sitting near him, etc.
A qualitative approach, on the other hand, measures the complexity of the classroom environment that may not be accurately measured by quantitative methods. Evaluators write down their own description of the classroom, which will later be a guide for giving subjective feedback to the teachers.
This type of supervision is more detailed and it has the following four steps:
- Supervisor meeting with teachers
- Classroom observation
- Analysis of observation
- Post-observation meeting with the supervisor
In the initial meeting, supervisors and teachers schedule the observation date and determine the focus of the evaluation. At the meeting following the observation teachers and supervisors work together to create plans for improvement.
Although this clinical supervision method is most effective, implementing a four-step procedure for every new teacher is time-consuming. Teachers will thus often encounter modified versions of such an evaluation process. Some have regular, unannounced visits of five minutes a few times a day during the evaluation period, and after each short visit, the evaluators and teachers have a follow-up conversation. Some aspects that may be observed are: whether the teacher stayed on the topic and did not get sidetracked, whether the teacher’s words are being understood by the students, or whether the classroom environment has enthusiasm.
Remember that although you may be tempted to feel intimidated or uncomfortable with evaluations at first, most teachers soon find that feedback from knowledgeable and understanding evaluators can give them a much better grasp on what is working, and what could be improved, in their classrooms.