Evaluations: Which Came First, The Principal or the Good Behavior?

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I’m fascinated by the reaction that many people have to an evaluation. In my humble opinion, they don’t seem to like them.

Call me crazy (trust me, I have been called worse).

The reaction is very subtle, but if you look closely you can see the disgust. And the steam coming out of orphuses (I have always wanted to use that word in a blog).

It is like people have to go through a greiving process.

Which Comes First?

Which Comes First?

There is denial.

Then anger.

Followed by bargaining.


And finally, acceptance.

If you stop and think about it, no one has ever died from an evaluation (you just wish you would).

While this isn’t always the case, an evaluation does make most of us at least a little nervous.

It seems that most people are happy with their present job performance. They already have their own opinion on their abilities and they like it (they generally believe they are model employees… human nature I guess).

I have more respect for evaluations since I started being the one who does them.

If done correctly, I really believe you can help people become better at their jobs. And I assume this works in any type of business.

This can be done (in most cases) without subjecting employees to a torturous process that takes away the will to live (or makes them want to take away my ability to live).

And even more importantly, the evaluator doesn’t want them to lose the will to work hard for the good of the students.

If for some reason they aren’t better for going through the evaluation, I know I am.

Evaluations have been a great learning experience for me. Granted I could do without the paperwork, but overall they are quite interesting and educational (I almost always learn something about teaching and the subject area while I conduct an evaluation).

If I’d had the opportunity to watch 50 different teachers while I was still in the classroom, I am positive that I would have done a better job in my role as a teacher.

Every teacher teaches in a slightly different way, but most seem to get the job done.

It occurred to me that the really great teachers seem to do a few things alike.

One, they teach the entire class period. And the students know it. These teachers don’t have time to waste because there are too many concepts they need/want to cover.

Secondly, they are in the same mood every day. Could be outgoing and happy. Could be quiet and reserved, but their students always know what to expect.

Students like surprises, like a new car on their birthday. They don’t like surprises, like drastic psychotic mood swings from adults (mental note… neither does my wife).

When kids walk into a great teacher’s classroom they know instantly what to expect. They are going to be constructively busy the entire period and the teacher’s personality won’t be a surprise.

There is one other thing that the really good teachers seem to do. They dismiss their students when the bell rings (or after the bell rings… after all they have a lot to accomplish in one class period).

Seems like a small thing, but I have definitely seen a pattern.

When an evaluation is complete, I seem to hear one comment more than any other… “The students sure were good while you (place evaluator’s name here) were in the classroom.”

My question for the day (or the blog)…

is that because an administrator was in the room…

or because the teacher was giving 110%, completely organized, and teaching a lesson that is interesting and engaging?

Which came first? The administrator or the good behavior?

Or the great lesson?

This blog is only one person’s opinion. My wife refers to that person as… clueless. As a teacher, she likes the evaluation process. Who is right? Do most people (in any job) like being evaluated, or consider it a necessary (forced upon them) evil?

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10 Responses to “Evaluations: Which Came First, The Principal or the Good Behavior?”

  1. Charlie A. Roy
    on Jan 28th, 2009
    @ 9:56 pm

    I believe they call it the Hawthorne effect. One of the little experiences i’ve always treasured was a visit to a room where the teacher had prepped the kids in advance with special instructions. Raise your left hand if you know the answer and your right hand if you don’t know the answer. It was priceless and such a rigged fraud. The kids ratted him out by passing me a note.

  2. Mark Stock
    on Jan 29th, 2009
    @ 7:14 pm

    The reason for the trepidation in evaluation is that most educators have received outstanding rankings for all their careers. Then suddenly we try to create a “continuous progress” model where everyone has a few things to get better at. Some educators can’t take it.

    It’s changing though. Most are beginning to wrestle with the idea that no one is perfect.

  3. eduguy101
    on Jan 29th, 2009
    @ 7:41 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree with you.Had I had the opportunity to observe peers throughout the course of my career I would have been a much better teacher sooner, and would have gained invaluable knowledge on instructional strategies earlier. It was only after my administrative training and a couple years in that I had a great grasp on teaching and instruction.

    The only time I have heard the comment on how well students behaved only during an observation was for those teachers who had classroom management and instructional issues. I am thankful that I have not heard this on the past 6 years.

    You hit the nail on the head in saying that it may not have been you presence but the planning, preparation and instruction that may have had an impact. It is a shame that this does not always occur each day.

  4. DMahoney
    on Jan 30th, 2009
    @ 10:11 pm

    In 15 years of teaching I am just now becoming satisfied with the evaluation process. When I was starting out I wanted “constructive criticism” and that just wasn’t done. Now that I’ve been doing this a while, I’m happy to see that there are actual critiques possible through the documentation and evaluation process. I will point out that the one big negative in my last evaluation was that my room was too crowded for personal attention to each student – meanwhile I had spent 3 months putting in requests for the extra desks in my room to be removed. They were removed the day after my follow up, but it’s frustrating that it took an admin in the room to force the issue.

  5. Ed Shepherd
    on Jan 31st, 2009
    @ 5:38 pm

    Simple, but to the point. As administrators I am willing to bet we have all been in the classes where the students seem uncontrollable and after wards the teachers response is “This class is always my behavior problem class.” My question to that is *Why*? If the the teacher is in charge of the class, who gave them permission to act the way they are acting?

    If we then get to the evaluation process the same can be said about us, the administrators- If our teachers are doing certain things in our school, who gave them permission to get away with it? That is why a good administrator will have those tough and uncomfortable evaluations rather than smooth it over. Everyone has room for growth and improvement, just some don’t like hearing it. I have a saying that is in my email signature ‘The truth only hurts, if you can’t admit its the truth’ and I stand by that. I hold myself accountable to that quote more than anyone.

  6. Nancy Hudak
    on Feb 1st, 2009
    @ 7:57 am

    In Maine – which got an “F” on teacher evaluations from the NCTQ – there is no particular requirement that teachers be evaluated at all, let alone how how often, with what instrument, by whom, etc. Therefore, the process is all over the place, between, within and among school systems.

    The biggest concern I (union rep) hear from teachers is that evaluations – when they are done – are based on one class observation once a year. OR, they are based on one observation once a year, plus whatever the administrator wants to throw in from “informal” observations which are seldom documented, but almost invariably negative.

    Another concern is that the evaluator has NO idea what the teacher does, particularly at the high school level. Maybe it’s just northern Maine, but there are too many principals who are ex-Phys Ed teachers and there is little sense that the principal is capable of separating his (typically) own teaching experience from his role as evaluator.

    Also, in too many cases, the evaluation process means little when there is a complaint or problem later. 10, 15 or 25 years of “good” evaluations disappear when some parent or administrator is on the attack.

    Finally, having represented lots of teachers who have been accused of something awful (and for good reason in many cases), I can honestly say I have never seen an evaluation instrument that comes even close to being objective. This may be the result of no state laws on the subject, but checklist or narrative or “teacher-owned” or whatever, the evaluation form always boils down to not a whole lot of real information to the teacher about his or her classroom practices. I’m sure there’s something better out there, but I have yet to see it.

  7. m00mma
    on Feb 2nd, 2009
    @ 9:43 am

    If you will take a note from a parent, I would love to add a thought or two. I come from a family of educators both in administration and teaching roles. I have the utmost respect for all that educators do, so I will try to tread carefully in my comments. Having my children in school and being a very involved parent (homeroom mom, volunteering for school activities etc)

    What I have noticed about the teachers at my childrens school is this:

    The teachers who are the very best at their jobs, who truly love what they, are good at it and want to grow more every day, they feel as though they have nothing to hide, they welcome evaluations. They seek out constructive criticism from their peers and from their administration.

    The teachers who are in it because they thought it would be a feel good job that gave them the summers off and they want to look good without all the hard work, well they will do anything to not be evaluated and if they receive constructive criticism, they are the teachers who get very defensive.

    Constructive evaluations can be great teaching tools for everyone! They should be used year round to help teachers become better at their jobs. They have tough challenges on a daily basis and if they are given the opportunity to learn from these evaluations then they can continue to grow and flourish as professionals. They benefit and as a result our children benefit. When that happens our society as a whole benefits!

  8. Pat
    on Feb 7th, 2009
    @ 4:35 pm

    I am an oddball but just the word “evaluation” makes me feel sick! I never did test well. The way I got over this was to actually desensitize myself by inviting administrators to eat lunch in my room whenever they had lunch (I was in the old home ec room with 6 kitchen units) and they took advantage of it. Every year, my class and I learned to get used to administrators in my room all of the time and soon, we didn’t even notice them. I never did anything different when they were there than I would if I was being evaluated but ignorance is bliss. As long as I didn’t know about it, I was fine. So I had glowing evaluations because I didn’t get nervous! Thank goodness no one knew what I was doing to get over evaluation phobia! (or maybe they did and didn’t let on!)

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    [...] could it be possible that I have some areas on which to improve? Maybe he and I should’ve had a pre-conference before we brought him [...]

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