Thursday, September 13, 2012

Are You Being Evaluated or Coached?

My very first teaching job was in Washington Township in Indianapolis, I was so excited to be hired to teach 1st graders. It was my dream job and I couldn't wait to get started. (This was WAY back in the early 90's)  I also was pretty sure, in the cocky, confident way of a 22 year old, that those "old" teachers could learn a thing or two from me.( I also wore jumpers with apples & other teacher things embroidered on embarrassing)

My first teacher evaluation was done by the principal.  I remember I taught some kind of math lesson using M&Ms.  So that was it, she watched my lesson,  and she gave me all "5"'s on a piece of paper that showed up in my mailbox which meant I didn't have to get better at anything. The professional equivalent of straight A's! She confirmed what I already knew...I was amazing, probably the best teacher ever!

The next year I had the Asst. Principal, Kay Kinder,  as my evaluator, I really don't remember what lesson I taught, I DO remember she actually wanted to meet with and discuss it. This made me nervous, she came to my room at the scheduled debrief time, passed the evaluation form over to me and HOLY COW there were some 4's and even---GASP---a 3 !  Being the mature 23 year old that I was, I immediately burst into tears. Didn't she get the memo? I was amazing?

My tears surprised her, she asked if I thought I had any areas where I needed to grow. (ummm, I didn't think so? ) Then, Mrs. Kinder gently led me down a path of self-reflection that I continue to this day.  She taught me how to set goals and then supported me in reaching them, only to reflect and set new goals.  The following year, she approached me and asked if I had any experience with computers (No, I mean, I wrote "go-to" statements in a high school class) undaunted she had me partner with the her to write a 4 R's Grant which we eventually received and allowed us to put 2 Apple IIe's in each 1st grade room. (The students would write pages if they could just pop in that second floppy and add an awesomely pixelated graphic! )

 She also made me responsible for all of the PD for integrating the computers into our classrooms.  I was hooked for life on integrating tech & on supporting teachers! I also became the go-to grant writer at that school and every school I've worked in since.   All of this, because of one principal, one "evaluator".  She changed the course of my professional life.
I saw Mrs. Kinder as much more of a coach/mentor, than an evaluator, she wasn't "grading" me she was coaching me. If I didn't have her influence, it is quite possible I would still be stamping spiders on worksheets, wearing spider earrings, reading Charlotte's Web and giving spider related spelling words and calling that a project.

We don't come out of college "amazing", we need coaching, I STILL need coached, I learn something new every single time I visit a school and spend time in classrooms. In my following teaching positions, I was evaluated at the next school (she was scary, I can still hear her heels clicking down the hall and praying they didn't slow down as she approached my door), ignored at the next (seriously, in two years, my principal NEVER came in my room) then finally coached again!

As the talk in the news is all about "teacher evaluations" let' s remember that no matter what they call it, it should NOT be about "grading" teachers,  it should be about feedback and growth!
Are you being evaluated or coached?

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