Having recently completed my international school‘s rigorous teacher evaluation assessment process, I have decided to jot down a few bits of advice for fellow teachers. This year, I have had more than twenty formal, informal and unscheduled “walk through” observations of my teaching. My school’s administrators have provided written and verbal feedback throughout the year and have assigned a score. My salary was determined by my score.The purpose of this posting is to promote learning and to help teachers reflect upon their own teaching practices.
I hope it helps.
Avoid negative people and stay positive
This year, I needed to focus solely on my craft. I did my best to avoid negativity both inside and outside of the school. I stated at the start of the year that I would not utter a negative word about the evaluation process and for the most part, I was able to live up to that promise.I studied meditation exercises and practiced relaxation techniques. Unfortunately, I was not able to hike, nor exercise as much as I normally do.
Plan, organize and invest
I strongly recommend that you arrive early each morning. Most of my day’s work was finished before fellow teachers had arrived at school. This helped me complete whatever needed to get done. I planned each day to the minute and made sure that I was ready for the surprise visits from my evaluators. I had special lessons planned, and on hand, in each subject area, if needed.
Much of my success is due to the hard work I put in August. My classroom organization and classroom management routines were instilled early and from that I was able to reap the benefits later in the year. I tell everyone who will listen that a productive August is crucial to a successful learning year.
For further ideas on classroom management, listen to this podcast.
Finally, invest in a smartphone. The money spent on one will pay off in saved time and an eventual higher salary. My iPhone helped me document evidence of learning, check up on emails,record literacy one on one conferences, update websites.
Differentiate and let your assessments guide your teaching
This year I made a concerted effort to “maniacally” differentiate for all lessons. Each unit began with a pre-assessment of some sort that helped me find “just right” learning approaches for each student. Essentially, I was able to produce an individualized educational plan for each of my 22 students. I made sure to document all of my data using Evernote.
Communicate with parents
My students’ parents this year were amazingly supportive of my work. This was due to my reputation and to respectful, individualized and positive communication throughout the school year. I never had a regular newsletter. I find them tedious to write and not a good use of my time. Rather, I would email parents occasionally when I had something inspired to post. I oftentimes attached a few photos or videos of student work and would include an educational journal of some sort.
My students benefitted greatly from regular, weekly class meetings. The students conducted all aspects of the meetings from setting the agenda to developing solutions to problems. This helped me foster a positive, safe learning environment and allowed the students opportunities to develop leadership skills.
I also provided student feedback forms for students to fill out if they had problems that they rather not share with the entire class.
Pace yourself and finish strong
My wife told me often that this year would be a marathon. She was so very right. She constantly reminded me to rest, recharge and relax, so that I could “run through the tape.” It was very important to me that I finish my year strong so that I could support future participants.
Are you going through a contract year?
If you are an educator, I wish you all the best. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @LarryHermanHK.