Sure it’s cold outside and the end of the year feels far, far away. But believe it or not, it’s time to be thinking about your summative evaluation.
No matter which teacher practice evaluation model your district is using, there is a standard or domain that deals with professional responsibilities (Standard 1 in McREL, Domain 4 in Danielson, Domains 3 and 4 in Marzano, Standard 6 in Stronge, Standard F in Marshall).
This is the “backstage” work of teaching — very little of it can be seen when visiting a classroom to conduct walk-throughs or observations. This is an evaluation area dealing with participation in the professional community, leading and collaborating, and practicing in an ethical manner. For many years, teachers have been evaluated on these criteria in a binary fashion: satisfactory or not. Now part of the teacher evaluation process, professional responsibilities criteria must be examined and rated on (minimally) a four-level rubric.
Most of the evaluation models are rather generic when it comes to describing a teacher’s professional responsibilities. In school districts where the rubrics have not been further developed to provide concrete local exemplars of effective and highly effective practice, both supervisors and teachers are understandably perplexed about what constitutes enough data for analysis and exactly what those data represent.
This has resulted in something I like to call “Shopping Bag Syndrome.” Just prior to the summative evaluation conference, teachers frantically grab documents that represent their professional practice throughout the school year. They haul reams of documentation into their evaluation conference. It’s time to change this practice: the issue is not quantity, but quality.
Consider the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. It houses millions of works of art spanning all of human history. It can’t possibly display everything! Instead, the curators choose a small percentage of its available artwork to exhibit in order to tell a specific story.
If you gathered every piece of paper or digital artifact that represents the work you do all year, it might fill a museum gallery as well! But this is both impractical and burdensome. Instead, you should curate — just as the Metropolitan Museum does — and carefully select a few items that represent the high quality of your professional responsibilities throughout the year.
If a supervisor tells you it’s not enough “stuff,” ask for a specific description of what is needed. If it’s just about collecting paper, you can easily do that. But how does that translate into effective and highly effective practice? Insist on clear exemplars for each of the professional responsibilities.
Why think about this in February? To avoid frantically scrambling through your files in June. This work is too important to be reduced to dumping reams of paper in shopping bags. Allow plenty of time to curate and gather a few exceptional examples of your practice that demonstrate your highly effective professionalism.
As a traveling educational consultant, I plan learning sessions for adults who (for the most part) I’ve never met and develop learning goals for teams based on (for the most part) a phone conversation or two. It’s challenging and results in frequent surprises when I actually meet groups face-to-face.
I recently worked with teams in a large county-wide district where the charge was to work with K-6 curriculum developers on the UbD process of identifying learning goals and developing transfer tasks. This is a group that has received significant PD on Understanding by Design and have already spent months identifying priority standards and considering next steps.
A departing administrator decided at the last minute to include a group of secondary folks who had zero PD on the process and little information about why they were sitting in on the elementary work sessions. After Day 1, I quickly realized the need for a re-design to provide a purpose for their attendance (as well as accomplish the original goal for the elementary team). The sessions became a modified fishbowl so that the newcomers could learn from the working teams.
The original sessions were structured for learning and working — and fortunately, this enabled a quick redesign. In the end, feedback from the secondary folks indicated that there was, indeed, high value in their sitting in with the elementary teams:
- I used to think that my content was all I needed to teach, now I think I need to use everyone’s content
- I used to think outside of the box inside of my classroom, now I know I need to think beyond my classroom
- I used to think good assessments assessed many standards, now I think good assessments assess many contents
- I used to think my secondary assessments were more difficult to create, now I think that pre-K assessments are incredibly difficult to create
- I used to think the work I did was more important than elementary school, now I know how deep the elementary teachers build the foundation of learning
- I used to think that we were doing an adequate job, now I think we need a whole new mindset
- I used to think that in order to assess my students I had to be an expert in my content, now I think I need to be an expert in all contents
- I used to think my ELA content was most important (if they don’t know what a simile is, where are they going in life?), but now I know that we are really supporting all the other content areas
- I used to think that I was preparing my students for the next level, now I think I am so narrow minded
- I used to think that our system prepared students for their future, now I think we can do so much better with a more global view
- I used to think middle schools had to teach foundational skills, now I wonder why we aren’t raising the bar
- I used to think it was a really bad idea to bring secondary folks in with the elementary teachers, now I think it was a really good idea (based on the feedback you gave/asking challenging questions) and the vision of the process
To quote Eisenhower: Plans are useless, but planning is essential.
Somehow fitting and absurd all at the same time, Chipotle is featuring stories by authors on their soda cups. My favorite (so far) is from Michael Lewis:
I spend too much time trying to spend less time. Before trips to the grocery store, I’ll waste minutes debating whether it is more efficient to make a list, or simply race up and down the aisles grabbing things. I spend what feels like decades in airport security lines trying to figure out how to get through most quickly: should I put the plastic bin containing my belt and shoes through the bomb detector before my carry-on bag, or after? And why sit patiently waiting for the light to turn green when I might email on my phone? I’ve become more worried about using time efficiently than using it well. But in saner moments I’m able to approach the fourth dimension not as a thing to be ruthlessly managed, but whose basic nature might be altered to enrich my experience of life. I even have tricks for slowing time—or at least my perception of it. At night I sometimes write down things that happened that day. For example:
This morning Walker (my five year old son) asks me if I had a pet when I was a kid. “Yes,” I say, “I had a Siamese cat that I loved named Ding How, but he got run over by a car.” Walker: “It’s lucky that it got killed by a car.” Me: “Why?” Walker: “Because then you could get a new cat that isn’t named Ding How.”
Recording the quotidian details of my day seems to add hours a day to my life: I’m not sure why. Another trick is to focus on some ordinary thing—the faintly geological strata of the insides of a burrito, for instance—and try to describe what I see. Another: pick a task I’d normally do quickly and thoughtlessly–writing words for the side of a cup, say–and do it as slowly as possible. Forcing my life into slow-motion, I notice a lot that I miss at game speed. The one thing I don’t notice is the passage of time.
I think this was easier to digest than the burrito …
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were able to access interesting reads such as these everywhere we travel during our daily routines?