I noticed recently that it has been some time since I wrote on how teachers should be evaluated by others and themselves. I think the last time I wrote was back in 2012. That was about the time my mind was shifting on this issue. Interestingly it was after I had ceased to labor as an administrator. So here are some more of my thoughts on this topic. My thesis is that no matter what context one is teaching in, if we view teaching as a vocation, it has to be evaluated as such. This is not an attempt to take the teeth out of true accountability, but rather a call to something higher than simple “human resources” type thinking about this subject.
I continue to see a great deal of formulaic thinking regarding how a teacher is evaluated by their peers and employers. Most of it seeks to reduce teaching to data. We state what should be in the formulaic lesson and then rate with numbers how a given teacher is doing within the logarithm of that formula. As expressed in an earlier post, we cannot confuse the differences between art and science. I think the numeric formulas seek to treat the art of teaching as a science. This is a reduction that radically changes the outcomes of evaluation.
But identifying the wrong way is too easy. What should be done? I am impressed with the work of Walker Buckalew and Independent School Management in this area. I have taken their material and married to my own views about Arts and Sciences and I think I have a good working model for evaluating a teacher regardless of whether they are in a traditional school setting (Kindergarten thru College) or working in a more tutorial setting such as homeschooling. And yes, I think teachers should evaluate themselves a lot more than others do, even parents choosing to teach in the home. Here is the overview of my system.
School Mission – This is the plain statement of the school’s mission.
Personal Mission – This is the sentence that states the teacher’s mission based upon their school’s mission.
Current Focus – The teacher looks at their mission and determines two or three areas of specific concentration for the coming year (August/September).
Year Goals – The teacher forms goals with clear actions involved and writes these in their journal and discusses them with their supervisor (Sept/Oct).
Study, Observation, and Writing – The teacher spends time throughout most of the year studying their areas, seeking to reach their goals, in particular observing teachers who exemplify the areas they are seeking to improve, and then writing in their journal the lessons learned.
Mid-year and End of Year Discussion – Around January and May/June, the teacher sits down and discusses in depth their progress on this year’s cycle of improvement.
This kind of cycle has no end, and removes the specter of someone at the back of room watching me teach (though admin will walk thru from time to time) and places the one at the front of the room exemplifying great teaching for the one at the back who is now the learner, not the judge. It is my hope that this type of thinking is the direction more and more educators move toward as we try to reclaim the art of teaching.