Teacher evaluations are an important part of helping a teacher to grow and develop in their profession. Whether being evaluated by a mentor, colleague, or even a teacher in training, this invaluable process can help an educator see their teaching from a different perspective. Maybe a mentor has some advice to pass down from their years of experience with classroom management, or a teacher in training may have suggestions on how to integrate technology to create new tasks that weren’t previously accomplishable as opposed to simply substituting Microsoft Word instead of physically writing an essay (Technology is Learning); in either case, these insights can help shape the future of the educator’s career.
At my previous school in Vietnam, evaluations for teachers only occurred once in the first year of teaching, roughly two weeks into teaching for that school year. All colleagues were encouraged to attend at least two “open classes” of first year teachers and check boxes for appropriate feedback. Though this encouragement existed, the meetings to follow afterward consisted of all teachers coming together and making comments about each new educator’s performance. It was a very intimidating experience, and only added to new teacher’s nerves for their first observed lesson. Additionally, the forms that we were given to fill out were basic and consisted mostly of yes/no questions regarding use of technology (which only meant the TV), speaking slowly enough, student engagement, etc. Without the ability to meet either one or one, or in at least within a smaller group, there wasn’t enough time to talk about true specifics with individual teachers, such as tips for creating a positive classroom environment or aiding in classroom management. Lastly, it would have been much more helpful to be evaluated throughout the year so a mentor, or mentors, could discuss how the teacher has grown and improved, and continued to give support through advice.
Now, moving to the USA and a very different school system, evaluations are based on three main components: teacher practice and student achievement (which is based on student growth objectives, and student growth percentiles for some teachers) (State of New Jersey, 2015). One much more positive element to the structure in New Jersey is the number of evaluations completed in one year. Each teacher is guaranteed to have at least 3 evaluations throughout the year followed by a meeting with their mentor. This can help a teacher reflect on their practice and continue to improve. Although, I’m sure these evaluations are also pretty stressful, especially considering their results are tied to their students’ percentile growths in different subject. I personally don’t feel that this is justifiable in all cases. If there is one teacher falling behind the rest, then this might be a red flag to observe and evaluate their class more frequently. But what if a teacher is reprimanded for say a 0.02% fall in their students’ marks after one year? Does this necessarily reflect the teacher’s abilities? I will be interested to ask my mentor her opinions on the topic.
As for my own upcoming experience, I hope to develop a positive working relationship with my mentor. I am looking forward to observing a more experienced teacher and how she sets up the classroom in the beginning of the year, specifically her rules, norms, and procedures. I am equally excited to hear feedback specifically in the areas that I can improve. Obviously, nobody is perfect and we can all continue to challenge ourselves in new ways as educators to teach subjects in more innovative ways, keep setting the mark for academic expectations in the classroom in new ways, and learn about new strategies to teach old tricks.
For me, I am most excited to be evaluated on student engagement. I feel this is the most important part of the learning experience. If students are having fun and working with challenging material, then I feel that I’m doing a good job. Other than this, there are a multitude of aspects that I should be evaluated in – classroom climate, classroom management, teaching specific standards, teaching specific content, etc. – and these will all be a challenge in their own right.
State of New Jersey Department of Education. (August 2015). Teacher Evaluation and Support. Retrieved from: http://www.state.nj.us/education/AchieveNJ/intro/1PagerTeachers.pdf
Technology is Learning: SAMR Model. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://sites.google.com/a/msad60.org/technology-is-learning/samr-model