As I opened the door yesterday morning at 8:45 and welcomed my little angels in, I heard the conversation that I was dreading most:
“It’s blue and black for sure!”
“Are you crazy? It’s white and gold, didn’t you see it?”
“Mrs. Perry, what do you think it is??”
“What are you guys talking about?” (Says the kid who doesn’t have Facebook)
Do you know what I’m referring to? Social media (and I mean ALL of social media) has been taken by storm the last couple days over some sort of argument regarding the color of a dress. I replied to my kiddos, “Mrs. Perry doesn’t want to talk about the dress and I expect that it is not a part of our conversations today,” in a tone that revealed more frustration than I would have liked. My 6th graders didn’t realize that I was just annoyed to be robbed of enjoying my nightly vice…. a few peaceful minutes scrolling through Facebook and Instagram. Unfortunately, that dress monopolized both feeds.
As I like to do, I decided to relate current pop culture to my other favorite subject, education. Let’s talk about ambiguity. There was obviously some ambiguity when it came to the color of that dress. I realize that disagreeing over the color of this dress ultimately has little consequence in my life. However, the topic of ambiguity has been coming up in my work sphere as well, specifically regarding TPEP, our new teacher evaluation system, and this certainly does impact me in more ways than one.
I’m going to go ahead and start with the good news. I firmly believe in this evaluation system. I believe that it is inherently designed to minimize vagueness and promote effective teaching practices, which in turn will increase student achievement. In a perfect world, there would be minimal ambiguity regarding implementation of this system, and the evaluations that ensue, however my experience over the last year and a half has shown otherwise.
This is not me complaining about or criticizing the system; like I said, I think it’s a good one. The CEL-5D rubric is organized, clear, and provides excellent exemplars as guides. A well designed rubric is, in my mind, the antonym of ambiguity! We have a powerful tool at our fingertips to help us pinpoint exact strengths and weakness in our instruction.
Because I know this to be true, I’ve been very consumed with figuring out how there could still be disagreements when using such a clear and evidence based rubric. I think it all boils down to something a little more abstract. I think it boils down to relationships. Therefore, this is my call to action for teachers and evaluators. This system does not work without honest self-reflection and trusting relationships.
Teachers: The greatest asset you can possess is a growth mindset. It’s important for us to be open and honest with what we do well, and what we know we can do better. This is not about pride, reputation, or anything of the like. This is about our students, and the fact that they deserve amazing teachers. Let’s be amazing for them. If you received a mark on the rubric that disappointed you, analyze it. Is this an area that you can grow it? Then study the rubric and see where you can improve. Ask your evaluator what you can do to take the next step. Ask for their support, and show that you are willing to do what is best for your students. If you disagree with that mark and have evidence as support, then use it! Bring it to the table and advocate for yourself. Have that conversation.
Evaluators: Believe in your teachers. Tell them (and show them!) that you value them, their experience, and their professional opinion. Build this trusting relationship, because that is truly the foundation to having honest conversations about evaluations. Honest conversations, and productive evaluator/evaluatee relationships lead to what we all want; higher student achievement.
I feel that TPEP leaves very little room for ambiguity, however no evaluation system will thrive without effort from all parties to be honest and open. Now, about that dress, I certainly have my opinion, but also more important things to concern myself with. Plus, I really just want my Facebook and Instagram back!