By Liz Garden, Principal, Florence Roche Elementary School, Groton, MA
I don’t know about the rest of you, but this is definitely the time of year when I need someone to be cheering for me and getting me pumped up for the final leg of evaluation season. As I am typing this, I also can’t help but wonder…what was I thinking offering to write about educator evaluation just as I am about to begin the process of doing lots and lots of educator evaluation writing!? I am going to choose to think positively; I am writing this post to support other principals, and by doing that I will ultimately support myself.
Over the next month, most of us will be figuring out the best plan of action for completing our formative and summative evaluation write-ups. Whether you have 20, 30, 40 or more to do, the fact of the matter is, there’s a lot of writing in your immediate future. You will need to look over artifacts and evidence. You will need to review observations from the year. You will need to think about the feedback that you have given particular teachers throughout the year. And you will need to figure out how to summarize all of that information and condense it into a form, a few pages that will hopefully help an educator realize her strengths and determine where there is room for even more growth. Easy task, right?
When I start to think about the job ahead of me, I have moments when this seems like an impossible task. The most difficult part of our job is to be an instructional leader for everyone in our school. And this is the time of year when I ask myself many questions. Did I spend time in classrooms this year? Yes. Did I spend enough time in classrooms this year? Maybe. Do I wish I had more time in the year to focus on being an instructional leader? Absolutely. Do I think that the formative and summative write-ups are the only thing that motivates educators to continually grow? Nope. Does educator evaluation happen throughout the year? Hopefully.
You see it is the work and conversations and observations and feedback that have happened throughout the year that make educator evaluation worthwhile. A few years ago, Carol Ann Tomlinson wrote a great piece in Educational Leadership about the evaluation of her dreams. In her post, she said, “When someone has a robust idea of what my job involves, I’m more likely to believe their feedback is a fair representation of my job performance.” My mother is a retired Latin teacher so she would appreciate me sharing that the word assess comes from the Latin word assidere, which means ‘to sit beside.’ At the end of her post, Carol Ann Tomlinson stated so appropriately, “For teachers, as for students, the most effective evaluation comes from someone who sits beside us and helps us grow.” This is the time of year when we all look back and hope that we have spent enough time observing and interacting with our teachers, sitting beside them, in order to write meaningful formatives and summatives. Writing these evaluations is really a time of self-reflection for all of as administrators.
However, it is hard not to let these write-ups become simply another item to be checked off a list. It takes time to write them out. It’s easy to get into a pattern of going through the motions, copying and pasting, just getting them done by the deadline. But I am here to encourage you, to cheer you on: don’t let them become another to do list item that needsto be completed and crossed off. Here’s where I am going to try again to be the cheerleader that we all need right now. So…2…4…6…8, who is ready to evaluate? Actually, I think the cheer should be changed to 2…4…6…8, who is ready to motivate, to elevate, to cultivate? What are you waiting for? Stop reading this post and get back to writing! Your teachers need you to help them keep growing.
Liz Garden is currently in her third year as the principal of Florence Roche Elementary School in Groton, MA. Before becoming the principal of the school, she served as the assistant principal for two years. Prior to coming to the Groton-Dunstable school district, she was an early childhood administrator in Leominster. Liz was also a second grade teacher in Westborough and a communication teacher for children with autism at the Boston Higashi School in Randolph. Before moving to MA, Liz was a teacher in VA. As a result, she is still in denial about wearing a winter coat for a large part of the year! Liz has presented at MESPA and MRA conferences, and is excited to be a presenter at NAESP in July. She blogs regularly for her staff (and anyone else who wants to read what she has to say!) at www.floromondaymorningmusings.blogspot.com. When she is not trying to be an instructional leader and mold future minds, she is dealing with her reading addiction, keeping Amazon.com in business, listening to her musician husband sing, and chasing around her wild 1-year-old, Emerson! You can connect with Liz on Twitter @PrincipalGarden and on Voxer @PrincipalGarden, where she is an active member of MESPA’s Voxer group.
Are you interested in sharing your ideas, insights and questions? If so, click here to sign up for a post. Julie Vincentsen, Principal of Ruggles Lane School, will reach out with specifics. Are you interested but nervous because you’ve never blogged before and don’t know where to begin? Don’t worry – as long as you know how to use Microsoft Word you will be up to this challenge. We write for our communities all the time – this just changes your audience. You probably could even take a current newsletter you’ve written and repurpose it for your colleagues.