Friday, March 16, 2012

Lessons Learned During a Busy Week

As I sit on my couch this Friday evening, I am exhausted and overwhelmed by all that has occurred this week.
Monday - Wednesday were three days of an accreditation team visit to our school. We have been working on this process for two year completing the self-study and improving our school throughout that time. It was an exhausting three days, but what a joy to show off all our hard work and the wonderful school God has entrusted to us.
Thursday and Friday we hosted the Calvary Chapel Education Association's East Coast Teacher Convention. We love interacting with other educators and preparing wonderful workshops for them. Our theme of Teaching in the Digital Age proved to be a thought-provoking topic.

However, as I sit here tonight tired from the 50 hour work week, I ponder what I personally gained from this week. Below are some of the thoughts this evening:

1. Be a life-long learner. I have always valued this philosophy and acted out on it by attending webinars and reading blogs. However, lately I have been content to make excuses as to why I can't attend such events or don't have time to read as many blogs. My "Read It Later" list is currently lengthy... but I find it ironic that one such article I bookmarked there is by Tom Whitby entitled "Why Most Teachers Don't Know What They Don't Know". I just finished reading the article and it stresses this idea of remaining diligent in life-long learning.

2. Be courageous. There are many times I shy away from a new idea because I can think of the many ways things can go wrong. I hesitate to mention a new initiative to the administration for fear that they will not agree. I avoid incorporating new teaching strategies because my students will not enjoy them and they will prove a waste of time. Martin Luther King, Jr once said "We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear." There will be times my initiatives or ideas will not hold up. My strategies or attempts to add technology to my classroom may fall flat. But in the midst of it all, I will learn perseverance and courage which are much more important lessons for my growth.

3. Be intentional. I love my job, my coworkers, and my family. I enjoy my days spent at both work and home. However, I need to be more intentional in all I do. I often am haphazard, forgetting several important items because I am flying by the seat of my pants. Some aspects of my job require spontaneity, but other areas require strict organization. I love interacting with my coworkers, but so often, in my rushed lifestyle, I run through the workroom and say hello rather than sitting and collaborating. During this convention I remembered how much these coworkers have to teach me if I just take the time to listen. At home my intentions need to be more focused on my husband, children and myself. By the time I get home, I am exhausted which makes me short and easily irritated. My husband and two children are of utmost importance to me. In order to demonstrate that, I need to take care of me by de-stressing and spend more quality time with them.

These are all wonderful lessons for me - especially during this hectic time of year. Being an intentional, courageous life-long learner will cause me to be a better wife, mother, and educator.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Keeping Teacher Evaluations Fresh

We are in the second year of our newest teacher evaluation process. We have adapted Charlotte Danielson's model found in Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching (2007). We keep her four categories of a teaching position, (Planning and Preparation, Classroom Environment, Instruction, Professional Responsibilities) and have added keys to each that reflect the expectations of a teacher at Calvary Christian Academy.

Our process includes the following steps:

1. Teacher self-evaluation of strengths and weaknesses in each of the four categories

2. A pre-evaluation meeting where teacher shares his/her self-evaluation

3. A formal scheduled observation of the teacher in his/her classroom

4. A post-evaluation meeting where the administrator shares the teacher's strengths and areas that need improvement.

We like this method because it examines the teacher both inside and outside the classroom. We have had many teachers who are wonderful in the classroom in front of students but could certainly improve in the professional responsibilities. This method allows for a balanced evaluation.

We also like that the teacher self-evaluates first. Often a teacher is more critical of himself than an administrator is and therefore we can encourage the teacher and help them along the way. We also find that meeting together allows for stimulating conversation and a way to join together to further train the teacher.

Even though I think the current process is efficient and runs well, a teacher made a comment to me during our pre-evaluation meetings this year that still has me thinking. He worked in business for many, many years and saw too much red tape and paperwork for the sake of paperwork. He questioned whether using the same system each year was truly necessary and productive. His overall point: A self-evaluation using the same criteria every year could become rote rather than helpful.

So my question regarding teacher evaluation: Should the same process be used year after year or should it be amended to keep things fresh? If we should amend things, how can that be done while still incorporating the elements we like from our current system?