Making Over Third Grade!: Evaluations: Anxiety & Action
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Friday, October 13, 2017

Evaluations: Anxiety & Action

It is that time of year again when evaluations are underway. I don't know why, but the idea of being evaluated has never gotten easier as time goes on. It always reminds me of Sally Field's at the 1985 Oscars:

It never gets easier. At least not for me. I was listing to the "My Bad" podcast (if you haven't listened to this podcast you should check it out), the teacher today was talking about mistakes he'd made early in his career and how he hadn't received the best scores.
Oh, the shame! For real! We seem to never tell teachers, particularly new teachers, that it is a hard job with a stiff learning curve and that they are not all going to emerge as superstars their first year, or even the first few.  It is a disservice to those teachers who are killing themselves and leaving the profession thinking they aren't good enough, and a disservice to ourselves in not helping them adjust to the demands of teaching. So, here is my story, not the only story, not the best, or the worst, but it is mine, and it may help. If it helps just one new teacher feel better about him/herself then sharing this publically is well worth any potential shame it may also bring.

All I ever wanted to do was teach. I was meant to be a teacher. I mean, I would play school with the neighborhood delinquent who was smoking butts from the gutter in second grade.  I would play school all the time - it was a part of me.

I started teaching later than most, my mom was ill and helping her took priority over school and my future so this isn't a right out high school and college story. Still, I think it may help, so here it goes.

I was hired after school started to take a class that would ease overcrowding. I was given books and kids all in 24 hours! My first classroom was half of someone else's and we literally had to walk sideways to get anywhere until our portable came 2 months later. I was always a week ahead of the kids in the curriculum, I had a revolving door for students, I think I had nearly 35 kids that year (class size was 20 - this is from them coming and going). I struggled to find my way and I worked ALL THE TIME. The year ended, I moved into a third classroom and prepared for my second year.

I took EVERY BIT OF CURRICULUM home, color-coded, and arranged it into files. I knew it all inside and out, backward and forwards by the end of the summer. I went to a local year-round school and observed classes during the first week of school. I felt I was ready and I couldn't wait for school to start.

School started and my first observation of the year was the day students were coming and going to take parts of the CELDT test. I thought it was a mess. I asked to have it redone and was told she saw what she was looking for. What?!? I am someone who takes everything to heart then stresses over it. So that was not an answer that made me feel good. During the debrief my BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support) mentor was there ready to take notes and I braced myself for whatever was ahead (even if I am getting good news I stress - so these things are ALWAYS stressful).  I was told that I had made 5 years of growth in one summer (really nice to hear) and that since my principal didn't want to bring me back (WHAT?!?) and that I was a pleasant surprise. Wait. What? Backup! That's right, she said she didn't want to allow me back for my second year, the vice principal talked her into giving me more time before she made that decision. I am so very grateful to him! I am indebted to him, and always will be. I had a wonderful year and received great marks the entire year but knowing that I had come so close to not having this dream stay a reality was crushing. That is when I decided to 1. always get to know the principal and let him/her
know me 2. help new teachers so that they do not feel so alone and lost their first year.

Years later, I had an observation where I tried something new. It wasn't working and the lesson crashed and burned in a slow-motion manner in front of my eyes. With one eye on the clock, I slowly watched the observation go down the drain and I couldn't help but think about what my principal (different from my first year) was thinking. When the time was over. I stopped the lesson, told the kids it wasn't working and took the steps back that I should have taken as soon as I realized the lesson wasn't working. My principal stayed and unbeknownst to me until later, he used this second period for the observation, My point is even good teachers have bad moments. Lessons fail. Plans don't work out as envisioned. Kids don't respond as you thought they would, Or some other thing is just "off".

Don't let one observation define you. Don't let one person's view or ideas define you. Ask others to come into your room. Ask for feedback. Be prepared to hear the good and the bad. Learn from your mistakes, correct them and move on, Don't dwell on the negative, If I had let that remark in that first debrief my second year define me I wouldn't be teaching, working as an instructional coach, or presenting at conferences. The best thing you can do for yourself is be the best you that you can be, allow yourself to change as needed, and don't be afraid of change. These are good reminders for everyone, think I will take my own advice as I prepare to be observed again this year.

So what's your story? Share in the comments below. I would love to hear how you overcame an adversity to become the teacher you are today.