There’s been a lot of chatter recently about ways to assess teachers.
Some say that principals and other supervisors do a lousy job assessing teachers because they don’t have the time, the training, or the inclination.
Others say it should not be totally up to principals because they play favorites, are vindictive, or have some other agenda.
My first two years teaching I worked for a principal like that. Now her school is being shut down.
Some say that the scores students get on standardized tests should be used to rate teachers.
The President of the United States says that’s the way to do it.
Which just goes to show how little he understands about education, about assessment and about motivation.
The people who go to elite private schools never really get what education is like for the rest of us, especially those of us who work or learn in inner city or rural schools which, counter-intuitively, have a lot in common.
At the present time there doesn’t seem to be a really accurate, workable way to assess teacher effectiveness, at least not one that can be applied to all teachers.
I give the task of assessing my teaching to the people who see it every day and for whom it is most crucial that I do it well: my students.
At the end of each quarter, when I have to determine and enter their grade for the quarter into our data system, I ask my students to give me a grade, to give me a report card.
I tell the students they do not have to put their names on the paper, but I want their assessment of me in writing.
I let them pick the criteria and determine how their assessment will be expressed.
Some make elaborate report cards with various categories, letter or number grades, and comments.
Others just write one sentence.
The first time the students assess me I get excellent marks. By the second quarter, when they see I take this very seriously, they are more critical.
My sixth grade class can be VERY chatty and a majority of the students in it told me I should be stricter. Even some of the chattiest ones said that.
They also told me they liked the projects I give them to do, that they like that I give them choices about how to do things and what kind of presentations to do. They want more parties.
Many of my colleagues who I know only through Twitter thought this was a great idea but one, Glen Westbrook, said that he knows some teachers who would be very worried about letting students have a say.
I have a message for those teachers:
All students assess their teachers every minute of every day.
Our grades are delivered as behavior.
The students who do the work, obey the rules and get good grades are saying they like, or at least can tolerate, the way you teach.
The others, those kids who are not engaged, not doing the work or otherwise acting out are delivering a different message.
Its not an easy message to receive.
It’s a lot easier to blame the students, their parents, the community or the administration.
Next time, before you bad mouth anyone else, take a look in the mirror and ask this question:
Am I teaching my students the same way I’d teach my own child? Do I teach the way I want my child’s teachers to teach?
Think carefully before you answer. Be honest.
Or hope your students will be when you ask them.