Passing notes, checking email, stalking Facebook, needing a bathroom break- no, I’m not describing the actions in a typical middle school class, I am describing staff development meetings across the world. I should know; I’ve been on both sides of them. Teachers (myself included) are definitely the worst behaved students I have ever seen.
Does this look familiar?
Like students who sit in our class each day (hopefully more engaged), teachers have the same fears every morning as they walk through the school doors:
- Will I be evaluated fairly?
- Are my peers judging me?
- How will I adapt to all of the changes that occur year-to-year, week-to-week, and day-to-day?
Teachers are constantly being evaluated. Even when your administrator says that they are not evaluating you, they are. It’s human nature. They want to know what, why, and how you are teaching- that’s their job. Some administrators will ask for daily or weekly lesson plans, while others will access your unit plans at any time. Hopefully, your administrators will regularly visit your classroom and observe you in your natural environment. Maybe it’s a quick pop in every week or a formal observation each semester; either way, as long as you are the best teacher you can be, it’s a piece of cake. Always ask for feedback.
The fears you have about evaluation are the same as your students. You are always evaluating (I prefer assessing) them. You want to know what, why, and how they learn- that’s your job. You walk around and informally listen to their discussions or observe their work. You formally assess their learning of understandings and skills. As long as you are the best teacher you can be, it’s a piece of cake. Always give them feedback.
Teachers are curious about other teachers. Are they better, worse, more loving, too uptight, team players, or doors-closed-doing-their-own-thing teachers? I know some fantastically dynamic teachers who want to curl up in the fetal position and cry when asked to invite colleagues to observe them. We are so afraid for others to see our weaknesses, but how do we improve if we don’t invite others in to observe and help us reflect in our teaching? We need to trust each other and always presume positive intentions.
The fears you have about your peers’ opinions are similar to your students. Are they smarter, stronger, friendlier, more loved, perfect-in-every-way students? Kids are very aware of how their classmates are treated, and they are quick to pick up on that, so we need to treat all students equally and fairly. Students are also vulnerable and feel humiliated when their peers see them struggle. It is our job to protect them. We want students to presume positive intentions about one another as well.
Finally, how are teachers expected to adapt to continuous changes in leadership, standards, curriculum, schedules, report cards, technology, new students, leaving students, and more? Do other professions have this many changes year after year? I can’t think of a single one.
My advice is the same that I would give students who are dealing with the same changes and more…
reflect on what’s important right now,
and do it well.
Then give and get feedback and presume positive intentions.