I’ve been in a copious amount of interviews throughout my time as an educator. Fortunately, I’ve been on both sides of the interview table, as part of the hiring committee and as a potential employee. In almost every interview, someone asks some kind of question concerning teacher evaluation (as they should. It’s an important part of the job). In regards to questions about teacher evaluation, I believe that administrators can and should learn during the process. In addition to some members of my hiring committees, some of the people interviewing me seem put off by that comment/belief. They seem fairly traditional in the sense that the teacher evaluation process is a learning experience (ideally) only for teachers and that the administrator evaluation process is a learning experience (ideally) for the administrators. I don’t agree with that.
Like Randi Weingarten says, teacher evaluation can and should build the capacity of our teachers. I go a step further. I believe that it can and should also build the capacity of our administrators. I’ve been asked, “What types of skills can an administrator possibly gain during the teacher evaluation process?” My answer regarding skills that administrators can build/develop during the teacher evaluation process is usually something like the following (this list is not exhaustive):
- Some administrators forget; we were once teachers (at least the majority of us). The teacher evaluation process is extremely stressful. The transition to the Danielson Framework was complex and was not easy for all teachers. We must empathize with our teachers as we all continue to grapple with the evaluation framework and the fact that teacher evaluation is extremely strenuous.
- We must focus on conducting evaluations that include the teacher as opposed to being “done” to the teacher.
- Communication skills
- Conducting teacher evaluations requires navigating precarious terrain. Obviously, some teachers are more open to evaluation than others. Clearly, some teachers see evaluation as an accountability measure that administrators use to dismiss teachers. Good administrators don’t view it that way. Regardless, as administrators, we must communicate effectively with teachers during the evaluation process that helps put them at ease. For me, having a stressful and, possibly, even an animus evaluation process is one of my least favorite aspects of the job. Collegial communication could help assuage teacher concerns and establish teacher evaluation as a process for continued learning.
- Organizational and prioritization skills
- Teacher evaluations are a lengthy process. In addition, many schools have large amounts of teachers who need to be evaluated. As administrators, we must be seriously organized while coordinating all of our teacher evaluations (among the plethora of other responsibilities).
- Horror stories abound regarding teacher evaluation. I just heard a story from a teacher who said that her principal set up two formal evaluations in ONE week. Not to mention, the administrator then canceled one of the formal evaluations and didn’t show up for the other. Come on… Seriously?
- Instructional knowledge
- With the intention of developing the quality of our teachers, it should be presumed that evaluation conversations (held throughout the evaluation process), focus on practices that help positively impact student achievement. That being said, collegially conversing about student learning would ideally help develop a collaborative understanding regarding the practices that best improve student learning and achievement.
- Informal, anecdotal needs assessment
- Yes, administrators (especially new administrators at new buildings) should administer a needs assessment at the beginning of the school year to determine the school community’s needs. However, properly conducting the teacher evaluation process helps administrators “keep the pulse” of teacher needs as well.
Overall, as educators, we must always be aware of opportunities for learning and growth.