Last week, I received an email from a teacher begging me to help her decide on her TPEP (Teacher/Principal Evaluation Program) goal for the year. Spending the past several years as department head and new teacher mentor, frantic requests about TPEP are not new to me. Unfortunately, the stress of performing well on a teacher-evaluation system can cause much anxiety. This can, in turn detract from our ability to expend the effort we need to be effective teachers. As educators, it is our job to provide feedback to students yet we are often uncomfortable when we are on the receiving end.
The first challenge is goal setting. Teachers do not always know where to focus their energy, and in an effort to impress their evaluators and think big, take on unwieldy projects. A logical place to start is with data. You can identify areas for growth in such places as last year’s standardized test scores, your gradebook, this year’s benchmark assessments (including formative assessments from your classroom), and student data from your students’ prior teachers.
As the evaluation process is an opportunity for personal growth, choosing a goal that matches an area you would like to explore can be a great way to build your expertise in that skill.
One tool that can be helpful for experienced teachers to determine areas for growth is the teacher self-assessment provided by OSPI. As the evaluation process is an opportunity for personal growth, choosing a goal that matches an area you would like to explore can be a great way to build your expertise in that skill. For instance, a teacher wanting to improve student discussion in the classroom may choose to focus on the Speaking and Listening Standards. Work toward this goal throughout the year could include participating in a book study on Academic Conversations, connecting with colleagues who successfully implement relevant lessons and assessments (e.g. Socratic Seminars, civic discussions, literature circles, and philosophical chairs), and researching rubrics and other ways to assess discussion skills.
Whether you are new teacher or veteran teacher on a comprehensive evaluation, you may benefit from connecting student growth goals. Stacking your goals streamlines your focus, creating less work and stress for yourself as well as the likely achievement of better results for yourself and your students. For the teacher focusing on student discussion mentioned above using the Danielson Framework, this might look like this:
- a Criterion 3 goal focusing on a small group of students who need extra support in the area of effectively participating in group discussion,
- a Criterion 6 goal measuring the growth of a whole class’s speaking and listening skills throughout one or more instructional units,
- a Criterion 8 goal describing how the PLC team will build, implement, and analyze results from common class-discussion lessons and activities.
It is also helpful to review sample goals for your content area, and use similar language to structure your own goals.
Like some students, overwhelmed teachers may be tempted to postpone gathering evidence until the last minute. Trying to think back through the months to determine which activities tied to your TPEP goals and begging students to retrieve work you already passed back so you can photocopy it for evidence may not be the most sound practice. If you decide on your goals early in the year and keep them at the forefront of your mind, you can easily select and save evidence as you or students produce it. Better yet, when you initially write your goal, brainstorming a short list of possible artifacts will provide you a plan for what to gather through the school year. Create a physical or digital folder labeled TPEP and add your predetermined artifacts as they are created.
Perhaps the most momentous sources of stress are observation days. I know countless panicked teachers who work late into the night to create a mind-blowing, awe-inducing lessons for their evaluator to observe. However, constructing an artificially flare-filled hour of learning activities that does not flow with the scope of your course does not benefit you, your evaluator, nor your students. Your evaluator will be unable to provide authentic feedback. Additionally, if you consider your typical daily activities as lackluster and disorganized, perhaps you could spend more time planning every day, not just when an administrator is scheduled to be in the room. Do bounce ideas for your evaluation-day lesson off your colleagues for feedback, and do rehearse your lesson in your mind and double-check your materials to ensure for a smooth day, but avoid producing a lesson that will make your students shake their heads and wonder whether an alien has invaded your body.
The evaluation system is designed to provide targeted feedback to identify progress and areas for growth, just as we do for our students. We all have moments of brilliance and days when everything falls apart. One overall goal may be to relax into and take advantage of the evaluation process as a means to grow your practice as an educator
Please share tips you have for managing the evaluation process, encouraging words for new teachers, and any hilarious or mortifying stories about when you wanted hide under your desk during an observation.
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