I am a mentor teacher in my district for the first time this year. I thought at first that this would keep me from worrying about TPEP because I wasn’t going to be evaluated on this system. I was wrong however, as what actually happened was that I worried about it for fourteen other people instead of just myself. Today on my way out of a school I had a new teacher who was not even one of my mentees stop me to talk about his recent experience with his evaluator. I have sort of become the district TPEP ‘go to’ girl and I like this. I like to be helpful.
I am writing to you because as I was listening and processing the fifteenth evaluation for the year I started to think that I could definitely see some patterns. Through my experiences coaching and helping others through the evaluation process, there are some things that evaluators do that are pretty stressful for themselves and for the teachers. On the flip side, this teacher was telling me about what a great experience he had and why. This conversation highlighted some simple steps you could take that would alleviate some of this stress for you and for your evaluees. I would guess that most of you will read my suggestions and potentially think, “Well, thanks Captain Obvious”. But I can attest through my experience this year that not everyone is doing these things to set their evaluees up for success yet everyone really should.
I think the first and most important thing for an evaluator to do is to just be approachable. Bring to the attention of your evaluee that this is about their growth. Having a “gotcha” attitude only causes panic for everyone. When your teachers, much like students, are stressed they actually tend to underperform. Please try your best to set the scene of collaboration even though we all know it is an evaluation process; it doesn’t have to feel like being on trial.
Secondly, reminders and links are great! I have seen my evaluees who have had reminders with dates and links to the documents they will need sent ahead of time be much more relaxed than those who feel like they are guessing. This is important even if you know you have laid it all out in the beginning. Just like you, teachers brains are really full at the start of the year, and they may forgotten or be unclear about it by now. Really just sending an email a week, or two even, before your scheduled observations and meetings with them and including a list of what they should prepare is so incredibly helpful. I realize how busy you are, really I do get it, but it will save you time in hunting down these items later and having to move meetings because your evaluees aren’t ready with the correct documents.
Thirdly, get together in your team and streamline things as much as possible. In building at least, if not by level or district. I work with fourteen mentees at just two schools but there are eight evaluators between them. It’s hard for them to work together and be prepared when one is being asked to do things completely differently than their colleagues. Teachers are natural team players who want to support and help one another but it’s hard to do so when everyone is having a different experience with different requirements.
Lastly, it’s important to remember some of them may be quite scared and/or stressed about this no matter how much you think you have been easy to work with. This may be especially true for teachers who are new to the career, or teachers new to your caseload. It’s never fun to feel intimidated and they want to please you. Please just be as clear and positive as you can be. Tell them the truth about their performance, they can handle it, but tell it to them as our partner in growth. Help your teachers to reflect and get better at thier practice. This is of course what’s best for kids.
If these four things are something you are doing then I am sure your evaluees are the kind who are stopping to tell me how great it was to work with you. If you aren’t doing these things, or if you think maybe you could do a better job with it, please try. It’s important to everyone to be mentally healthy and to work together to grow great teachers, who grow great students. You are the leaders so please help us to follow your lead.
First Year Mentor
Worrier for Many an Evaluation