Time for walk-throughs, observations, evaluations, and appraisals. Summative meetings with administration and the dreaded feeling of wondering whether you're deemed "proficient"or if you'll score the coveted label of "exceeds expectations". We ALL want to exceed in teaching because, well, it's what we love.
As teachers, we take our jobs VERY personally...and rightfully so! We invest so much of ourselves, our time, and our finances into our classrooms and our students and we sacrifice so much in the process. It's hard for us to admit that we aren't "perfect" teachers. We hate to think that we aren't the best at what we feel like we were born to do.
Some years it's even hard to feel like we'll score in the "needs work" category when we're blessed with an extra challenging class. You know the class I'm talking about. The one that makes you question your career choice. The one that whispers in your ear as you exit the school parking lot, "just pick up a bottle of wine and everything will be better tomorrow." THAT class.
So how do you approach observation season? Are you excited to show your administration what you do in and out every day? Or do you fear the idea of being judged? Do you worry that you'll have behavior issues? Or that your friends will act like it's their very first day of school? Are you concerned you won't seem competent enough to not only manage, but teach an entire classroom full of different needs?! I think we'd all be lying to ourselves if we said those thoughts didn't creep in before appraisals. I mean, Lord! I feel like we're always second guessing ourselves as it is!!!
What happens when you do get your evaluation back and it doesn't read the way you anticipated? Maybe areas where you feel you're really strong were scored lower than you expected. Or your overall score doesn't reflect what you think you deserve. Has that ever happened to you? And if it has, how have you handled it?
Which statement best fits you?
In this kind of scenario, we have two choices...we can choose to welcome constructive criticism as an invitation to become a better teacher, or we can choose to let it define and destroy us.
Let me tell y'all something. When I left the classroom to consult/mentor and present, I found myself in a similar situation with evaluations and appraisals. Only this time the evaluations and feedback aren't coming from my administration....it's coming from my peers. Teachers who either like what I have to say, or hate it. Teachers who either like me, or don't. Plain and simple. What I found was that there are three kinds of critique we get after a presentation. Amazing, glowing reviews (love that, of course), constructive criticism (I actually really like this, too!), and downright not nice, and sometimes really tacky comments (not necessary, in my opinion).
While I love the amazingly kind and complimentary feedback, I often take it with a grain of salt. I'm pretty hard on myself and to be totally honest it's really hard for me to accept a compliment at face value. The tackier comments, in my opinion, aren't necessary. I mean, it's cool if you don't like me or don't like what I have to say, but how am I supposed to grow if you say things like, "she is irrelevant and boring"; or "I didn't like the way she styled her hair" (<------hahaha, well, neither did I! LOL!!!)
But let's talk about the constructive criticism for a minute. Sometimes it's hard to hear, but I LOVE it. I love it because it helps me to improve! It helps me to grow. For example, "Great content, but talks really fast. Hard to keep up." <-----THANK YOU!!!! I do talk fast and I try to be conscious of this when I'm presenting, but sometimes my fast talking speech gets the best of me. However, I can GROW from that kind of feedback. It makes me so much more aware of what I'm doing! It's hard to improve when you only hear the good and the bad. I like to take what's in the middle and use that to get better.
I taught with a really wise teacher once who had been in the classroom for 30+ years. In my eyes, she was the definition of teacher. She was BORN for the classroom. She was teacher of the century! And amazingly, she was constantly seeking feedback. Not for approval, but to figure out what she could do better or differently to make sure she was meeting the needs of all of her students. That's something that has stuck with me for years. She would always say, "If nobody can tell me I'm doing something wrong, I'll keep making the same mistakes!" LOVE that!!!
So what should you do if you find yourself on the receiving end of unwanted or unexpected constructive criticism this appraisal season?! Here are some things to keep in mind...
Don't let any type of criticism...constructive or otherwise...define who you are as a teacher. Use the constructive criticism to guide you to make changes or improvements where necessary. As hard as it might be, use it to help you grow!
I've always had amazing administrators who weren't afraid to say the hard things. I've also been fortunate enough to teach in schools where my administrators really believed in the power of the constructive criticism sandwich...start with a strength/address the area for improvement/follow up with positive results and observations. My lessons didn't always go as planned. There were always things I could have done better. I really appreciated my administrators being able to address those things with me in a constructive way that genuinely made me excited to try something new and different! I mean, we all know we have room to grow, so why do we take it so personally when it we hear it from someone else?! Again, use it as a springboard for growth!
Of course, you won't always agree with the evaluation you might get. I know of many teachers whose less than stellar appraisals were unwarranted, yet they handled their summatives with grace and respect. All that to be said, it's important to set aside the disrespect if you do disagree. Not only is it unprofessional, but it gives off that "I'm right, you're wrong" vibe and makes it seem like you aren't open to any suggestions other than your own :) When you're the only person you want to listen to, you're limited to your own perspective. It's okay to disagree, just be sure you aren't being disrespectful when communicating your opposition.
Acknowledge what your administrator is communicating and accept what he/she says. I honestly think that...for the most part...our administrators give us constructive criticism because they truly want us to be successful and not just for ourselves, but for our kids! They want to make sure our kids are getting the best we have to give. So why would I not want to take what I learn and use it to make me a better version of myself?! After all, that's the goal, right?! Not to do better than anyone else, but to be a better version of the teacher/presenter I was the day before. When you know better, you do better.
***Before I go, I do want to mention that I'm in Texas and my appraisal system here might be vastly different than the appraisal and evaluation system in your area. I haven't taught in any schools where my performance was solely evaluated based on the performance of my students. My evaluations were usually given after a series of three, 15 minute walk throughs and one 45 minute formal observation. We're evaluated based 51 criteria within eight domains reflecting the Proficiencies for Learner-Centered Instruction (Texas teachers know this as PDAS). Hope that helps you understand where I'm coming from! ***
HAPPY APPRAISAL SEASON ;)