Stepping Stones is a monthly column that breaks down seemingly daunting tasks into simple, manageable “steps” that any art educator can take and apply directly to their classroom. Stepping Stones will explore a variety of topics and share advice for art-on-a-cart teachers and those with art rooms.
SURVIVING YOUR EVALUATION
by Heidi O’Hanley
For some educators, the most worrying times of your career can be your teaching evaluations. Many of us have heard stories of miscommunication and misunderstandings between administration and educators, so it’s no wonder many become tense during times of observation. As nervous as many of us can be, evaluations are an important element in your job. Our evaluations reflect our professionalism in our career. It helps administration understand our curriculum, measurement of student growth, and gives a chance to share how awesome we are in our classroom setting.
There are many types of evaluation tools used in all school settings and the most popular is the Danielson model. With the Danielson framework, there are four domains that a teacher is evaluated on. The first domain is planning and preparation. A few standards within this domain reflect how you demonstrate knowledge and content, knowledge of students, setting instructional outcomes, and designing assessments.
The second domain reflects your classroom environment. Even if you teach on a cart or temporary space, you still need to establish class procedures, manage student behavior, and organize your physical space. Domain three involved your instruction. The standards covered reflect engaging student learning, question and discussion techniques, student communication, and assessment in instruction.
The last domain covers professional responsibilities, which includes your own reflection on teaching, maintaining records, communication with families, participation in the professional community, and growth in your professionalism.
Another popular evaluation tool is the Marzano model. The Marzano model also has four domains that chain together. Domain one is classroom strategies and behaviors (which directly affect student achievement). Domain two is planning and preparing, domain 3 is reflecting on teaching (awareness of instructional practices), and domain four is collegiality and professionalism.
Whether you are a first year or experienced teacher, here are some key tips in surviving your evaluations.
1. Gather your evidence. Have you had communication with a parent over email? Do you have a call log? Save it. Do you set up displays in the hallways or in the local community? Take pictures. Gathering your artifacts helps provide evidence of the hard work you put into your career and how much you support the students you teach. It helps to get in the practice of documenting everything you do from day one. Documents, pictures, newspaper clippings, and articles/blog posts are key evidence pieces to help develop your Evaluation portfolio.
2. Create a system to save the artifacts. Many teachers create “binders” to save all their work within each standard to meet in the four domains, while others have folders or digital documents. For print outs and physical artifacts, save a file folder for each domain. Keeping your artifacts in one place makes it easier to find what you need if asked. If you have a blog, Instagram, or social media site dedicated to your classroom and lessons, you have a huge percentage of your evidence shared digitally, which is easy to pull up if needed.
3. Prepare and study the ins and outs of your lessons for your observations. I know it’s easier said than done, but prepping in advance will save you a ton of stress down the road. If you know which lesson the administrator will observe, hand in a copy of your lesson plan in advance including standards and any photo document of the project. Create your examples, rehearse your objectives, and prepare for any questions that may be asked.
4. Be prepared for thing to go wrong. Nothing goes 100 percent perfect, but how you handle the flexibility reflects a lot on your teaching. When you deliver a lesson over time, you instinctively reflect on your successes and failures, which help you to refine your delivery of instruction and enhance your projects.
5. Don’t stress over it. From personal experience, adding tension and stress causes more problems than needed. As long as you feel prepared and focus on your tasks in front of you, your observations should run smoothly. There have been a few times I was observed and I flowed around the room, forgetting the administrator was even there. The evaluators are there to view how you move about your classes, deliver your instruction, and manage classroom behaviors. Show them how awesome you can be.
6. Your class comes first. The key thing to note is that you are there to educate your students, so they should always come first. Think about their learning : Are they understanding the objectives? Are they engaged? What are they taking away from your lessons to use outside of the classroom? These are the elements your administrator wishes to observe, so put your focus on your class.
To all you wonderful educators, good luck with your evaluations. I know you can rock it if you put your mind to it. We are in this together to bring art to future generations.
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor, Heidi O’Hanley (NBCT) teaches elementary art for Indian Springs School District #109, in the Greater Chicago Area. Visit her blog at www.talesfromthetravellingartteacher.blogspot.com.