Yesterday was the second part of my teacher performance appraisal (TPA) - some of you probably call these teacher evaluations. Ours is a multi step process: an initial meeting to discuss objectives/criteria and sharing session, in-class observation and follow up session.
For my TPA, I asked my vice-principal to come and observe two of my classes - my Grade 10 Applied History class and my Grade 9 Academic English class, as these classes have very different dynamics. My Grade 10 History class is a very energetic group. Sometimes we struggle with focus, attention and staying on task. This is all a part of the reality of teaching and so I didn't shy away from having this class as one of my 'observation' classes.
It got me thinking of something that Jennie Magiera said at the GAFE conference this week (Trust me... she said it better - she's way more witty than I am... but you'll get the idea). She said that she used to be so excited and proud when the principal would walk by her class and all the students were completing silent, working away in their rows with their books. Score one for the teacher being in total control! Woo hoo! And yet, she said that same thought now makes her shudder! The idea of someone walking by her class and seeing rows of children in complete silence is the exact opposite of what she wants to represent her as a teacher! And I feel the same way!
Why is it that we still have this outdated, archaic idea that a quiet classroom is always a better classroom? Sure, we don't want kids swinging from the ceilings, throwing things across the room and yelling obscenities! But, what about "productive" noise? Is it better to have rows of silent students pretending to do worksheets or is it better to have lots of noise coming from students who are learning?
Here's a little clip of my students engaging in "productive noise". Instead of doing "comprehension questions", we do "learning stations".
What does this have to do with my performance appraisal, you ask? I told my students that the vice-principal was going to be dropping in to observe the class; I didn't elaborate because I didn't want the students to act differently (better or worse!) based on his reason for being with us. I just wanted them to not be surprised when he showed up. I explained to them that I welcome admin to come visit us anytime to see the cool things that we are learning!
Before class started, a student approached me and said: "My brother made a bet with me that you are going to act differently today because the VP is here". What?! - I thought! I asked her to explain that to me. She said that they thought that I would be "more traditional" because admin was coming to my class! I assured them I would be doing nothing differently than I normally did!
At the end of the day, I asked him... so, did I act differently?
Well, PHEW! I would hate to think that because admin comes into my room, I go from energetic, bouncy, joking, smiling, modern connection making, team work loving teacher to some kind of robot... some "non tolerant" teacher! Strict? I don't need to be "strict" by the definition they go by... my students know my expectations! They know that my classroom runs on respect and relationships! I don't need to yell or tell them all to be SILENT; they know when to listen (usually! They are STILL kids - they have their moments!) and when to get learning! I have MY style that works for me and my students! It's not about what other people do or don't do... it's not a competition or a comparison! I know what is going on inside my four walls and I adapt my teaching and learning according to my class dynamic! I wouldn't change just for the sake of perception! We are who are! (Sorry, didn't mean to make a Ke$ha reference.... #edufail).
But I have to wonder... why did they think that I would change? Is my way of doing things so 'uncommon' and 'untraditional' that they think what I am doing is something I need to cover up or hide from the higher powers? Where do our students get the messaging about what teaching and learning looks like? Do they think there is only one style that is okay? Do they think that people perceive noise and movement as bad? And on that last question... are they right?
This was a very interesting experience for me; not only from an evaluation standpoint but because of what it taught me about my students' perceptions and certainly, it re-affirmed for me, that many of them enjoy the way I do things.
(Photo courtesy of Edutopia.Org via Lisa Dabbs. No copyright infrigement intended.)
Who am I?
Hi! I'm Megan. 21st century learner and teacher. I am passionate about DI, assessment, student success and #edtech. My blog is where I share what is happening in my classes, my professional learning and sometimes things that are on the outer circle of education. Comments always welcome!