It is that time of year! Finally it is sweater weather for most of the day, and we have football, October baseball, homecoming, Halloween, and goals. I know…one of these things is not like the other..is running through your head.
Each year in October, it is time to have my goal meeting with my evaluator and review what my focus for the year will be. This year I am on the Focused TPEP track. Oddly however, I found myself stuck as I sat down to write my goals. However, ever the to-do list checker-offer, I was determined to get right to it and started my self-evaluation. As far as I can remember, I’ve been setting goals to turn in for evaluation purposes for at least the last 8 years; I’m sure probably longer. They used to be SMART goals, then they were Professional Growth Plans, and now Framework goals. I like goals; they are built in to-do lists with structure and reflection. For all of my experience with and enjoyment of goals though, this year I found myself seriously stuck.
My district uses the Danielson framework for TPEP and as I completed my self-evaluation on eVal, I hemmed and hawed. I procrastinated. I tried. I stopped. Stuck. Finally, I decided I would focus on 4c [Communicating with Families] and 4b [Maintaining Accurate Records]. So, I began to write my framework(s) goal. I filled in my action plan, my artifact list, my student learning impact. Two and a half pages later, I was finished. I had an action plan that was achievable as long as that was all I was planning to work on this year. I hadn’t even written my student growth goal yet! I know it’s October, and Halloween is just around the corner but I was going to need more than a Wonder Woman outfit to make this goal work.
Part of my struggle stems from a desire to consistently improve in all areas. I have yet to evaluate myself as “distinguished” in anything. When the language is laid out in front of me and the layers upon layers of focus areas are lined up, I find it extremely difficult to pick just one thing to focus on. Anyone who truly knows me will tell you, I’m perhaps just a smidge competitive and very focused on making sure that whatever I do, I do well. The language of the rubrics gives me pause. I have to remind myself that we visit “distinguished” we don’t live there. There is a part of me that deeply wants to set up house in “distinguished.”
My first mistake was picking two areas of focus. The directions are to pick one, not two, one. This is a focused plan not a Panera menu. Thank goodness for an evaluator who is honest and logical. I sat down to review my goals and submit them to my evaluator. She read through them, we talked about my reasoning behind these goals, and then she looked down at the papers again. She shook her head, looked me in the eye, and said, “This is way too much. You can do all of this but why would you put yourself through this on top of everything else that you do? You need to cut this down to one area and no more than four action steps.” All I could think was “Great, I’m going to have to rewrite these. I just got done being stuck and I’m going to have to redo these goals.” I wasn’t hearing her; I was too busy beating myself up. She wasn’t telling me I had done it wrong, just that I had set myself up to either fail or not do anything very well. I had to change my mindset.
I tell my students all the time: “It is okay to fail, to need to try something different, to reflect and grow, to do better the next time.” They often respond about the same way I responded to the news that what I had written was too much: head shaking, kicking themselves around in their minds, dwelling on having done it wrong. But TPEP isn’t about doing it right or wrong. It’s about reflection and growth and doing it a little bit better every time you do it again.
I went back to my desk, I revisited what I had written. I chose one area. I limited my action steps. I went from two and a half pages to a smidge over one. My advice for my fellow focused TPEPers, having lived through it: Choose 1 area of focus. Do that area to the best of your abilities. Don’t be afraid to fail. Keep doing it a little bit better every day.