How Teachers Can Ease the Stress of Performance Reviews
Over the past decade or so, the world of a teacher has changed dramatically. A new set of standards has been introduced, standardized testing has become increasingly interwoven into instructional decisions and teacher evaluations have become more rigorous and completed more often. The stakes have gotten higher for everybody involved.
I have no desire to get into the merits or pitfalls of these developments. I’m much more interested in sharing ways to help teachers and administrators to work well together during these “interesting” times. And the first place I think teachers should start is with their performance observations and evaluations.
Very few people look forward to being evaluated (me included), but the fact remains that holding ourselves to a rigorous set of professional standards can only help us serve the children better. For teachers, developing a deep understanding of the standards will help lower the temperature during performance reviews. Here are a few suggestions for making the most of evaluations:
Know the playing field
My experience has been that the teachers who are most concerned with new expectations are those who don’t know them well. When they look closely (preferably with the support of their district during an in-service activity), most teachers find out that the expectations aren’t so high, but rather are very detailed. Spending time reading and thinking on the expectations, and maybe seeing a video or presentation that brings them to life, will make the thought of being evaluated on them a lot less scary.
Be hard on yourself
The most effective and highly respected teachers hold themselves to very high standards — not to please an administrator but rather to meet a personal standard of high performance. When comparing your performance against the rubric, make it a point to push yourself to meet the more rigorous aspects of what you will be evaluated on.
Put yourself in the administrator’s shoes
As hard as it may be to do, try your best to see your performance through the lens of your evaluator. What exactly is she looking for in your performance? Has this been communicated to you and have you considered requesting a pre-meeting so you’re able to meet the expectations? The demands on administrators are heavier than ever, and working with them before your evaluation will help it to go much smoother.
Lean on your colleagues
Teaching has evolved into a much more collaborative profession because more and more instruction is based on working in teacher teams. But the complexities of the evaluation process are also playing a role. Teachers find that working with colleagues to help understand and apply these expectations is an excellent way to not only manage the stress of the process, but also to grow from it.
Remember the students
As an optimist by nature, I hold onto the belief that by asking more of ourselves (administrators included) we will, in turn, offer our students a better school experience. All of this work, time and effort (admittedly overwhelming at times) will be worth it if we can look back and realize that we made better the lives of our students. If you don’t agree with that sentiment, I encourage you to think on it a bit.
Taking into account all of these points and using them to reflect on your practice are key steps in helping make the somewhat unpleasant experience of being evaluated into an important and integral part of your personal growth. Good luck and work hard.