I was a brand new teacher twenty six years ago, and I still remember my first goal setting professional development. I must have looked confused as the district staff developer described the process approved in the latest contract because a teacher sitting next to me leaned over and whispered reassuringly, “Your goal doesn’t have be be related to school. I’m going to take an exercise class.” It was the start of many years of goal setting with only casual connection to the work I was actually doing in the the classroom and devoid of any support from data. My goal setting work was like a relationship with a lot of potential that never actually went anywhere.
Fast forward to my first meeting with my evaluation framework for TPEP, the Danielson Framework. It was love at first sight. The frameworks described what I actually did in the classroom and how to do it better. That made a truly attractive first impression.
Before I could use the frameworks to set any goals, I needed to do some self-evaluation. How much of what was in the frameworks was already part of my practice?
I opened up a Word doc and created a table. I typed in all the criterion sections and all the subheadings. Then I took my plan book from the previous year and started adding bullet points for things I was actually planning to do this coming year in my table.
It was eye-opening. Some sections had plenty of bullet points, while others were sparse. Seeing those empty sections encouraged me to think creatively about what was missing form my practice. I decided to color code – black text for things I had done before while red text represented ideas that I would be trying out.
Then I added an evidence column to my table. How could I show what I had done? More red and black bullet points went into the evidence column, and then I created an additional column for the date I expected to have completed the evidence.
Clearly I needed to spend time with my document so that our relationship would grow. It would not be enough to just get together when I felt like it. I scheduled a visit to my TPEP table on the last day of every month – just to check in. What had I accomplished? What needed to be added? Where was the evidence?
As the year progressed, I moved way beyond the getting acquainted stage with my TPEP table. Spending regular time together created comfort and familiarity. Knowing what I was doing well gave me the confidence to take risks in other areas on the table. Now how to sum up and communicate all the ways I had grown as a teacher?
I added a final column to the table. Which of my plans had I accomplished? I added brief reflections in this column about what went well and what I would modify and try next year.
Sharing my completed TPEP table and evidence with my evaluating administrator was like bringing home a serious love interest to meet the ‘rents. I was excited, confident, and hopeful.
My evaluating administrator really liked the TPEP table. It became the starting point for my goal setting for the next year.
So here’s my Valentine to the TPEP. What started out as a crush has grown into a long term relationship – and I’m a better teacher for it.
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