Well, I don’t usually post about things like this, but there’s something that a colleague said a few days ago that really bugged me.
On discussing an upcoming observation that the teacher had, the colleague mentioned to me (and to a student) that, “I have to play games. I’m a much cooler teacher when I’m not being evaluated.”
And man, I don’t know how that makes me feel. As a second year teacher in the state of Ohio, I understand what it feels like to be observed. I’ve got evaluations from administrators, I’ve got walkthroughs, I’ve got SLOs to deal with, and I’ve got a mentor through the new teacher program that visits me weekly. I’ve had my share, in the two short years I’ve been a teacher, of being observed and of being evaluated.
I also understand, that with all of the buzzwords thrown around in education, some educators are staying on their toes so that their evaluations are up to snuff to continue doing their job. I, as a new teacher, think I understand that very well. We throw around Marzano strategies with domain names, essential questions, enduring understandings, academic vocabulary, student learning objectives, and student learning targets. We talk about kids who are G, ED, 504, ESL, and IEP. Sprinkle that with a few national and/or state standards, technology usage, formative/summative AND formal/informal assessment, and it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.
I’ve been criticized, advised, commended, cautioned, urged, warned, instructed, encouraged, discouraged, counseled, mentored, and had an evaluator that was flat out rude when speaking to me.
I’ve also catered my lessons toward observations, planned activities that I know my evaluators would like to see, and single-, double- and triple-checked my plans so that everything lined up absolutely perfectly for an observation day. I’ve molded lessons, done extra work, created materials, warned students, and scripted for those observations.
But if I can’t be the same kind of teacher when my evaluator is in the room, I think that there’s a problem. I think that if I deem myself, “cool, original, fun, etc.” when I’m alone and have to change everything to put on a show for my evaluator, there’s something wrong. If I have to limit myself, filter myself, or hold back because of an observation, my question is, “why am I doing that in the first place?”
Now, clearly I am not a perfect teacher. I don’t have it all together, I mess up frequently, I forget to assess often enough, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But I’ve never thought that I had to be a different person entirely when I’m being observed. I’ve never changed the way that I teach because I felt that I had to impress someone. If I have to change things that drastically for an evaluation, than my day-to-day teaching is probably not up to par.
And personally, I don’t want to change for my evaluation. I want my feedback to be 100% real, usable, and critical of stuff that I do on an everyday basis. I want to get better based on that feedback, and not shrug it off because “that’s not how I normally teach.”
This is just something that I think I needed to get off of my chest. I mean no disrespect to the colleague in question, and I hope that colleague doesn’t feel the need to change this lesson from the normal day-to-day. I’m just sad that some teachers feel the need to become another person for an evaluation and then get ratings that don’t reflect what their real performance. I think this is part of the reason that society is so critical of teachers, but also, we’re struggling in a field where so many are making decisions that aren’t in our best interests as teachers and professionals. I understand the struggle, but don’t want to succumb to it.