I have been thinking about my post yesterday. I think it is a mistake for me to shy away from evaluations of my classroom and my teaching.
I got into teaching to stand for something special. I will bend every effort to excel and to incorporate the best elements of teaching into my practice. When I am evaluated, some combination of three things will happen. One, the high quality of my work will be seen. Two, the observer will make suggestions that improve my teaching. Three, I may meet one of these dogmatists I fear and disagree with some or all of the assessment. These are all outcomes that can only benefit all concerned.
The tricky one is where there is disagreement. I have always felt a strong pull to comply with authority out of a desire to be accepted and/or a fear of sanction. However, I have also always had strong analytic skills of my own. Given that the former instinct usually overrode the later, these encounters would frequently leave me feeling violated and, subsequently, acting out against that authority in some covert (and ultimately self-destructive) fashion.
Being slightly wiser these days, my philosophy is different. Now, I trust that the best thing to do is to stand for my beliefs, regardless of consequences. This does not mean being stubborn. I have a strong intent to be open in all aspects of my life. However, it does mean that I need to stand for my reasoned beliefs.
I will be respectful. I will be inquisitive. I will be open to learning and to improvement However, if, in the end, I disagree with the advice or assessment, I will stand for myself. It is possible that this will have negative consequences for me and that is ok. However, if I am respectful, if I demonstrate a willingness to listen and an ability to change if persuaded, and if my arguments are sound, I am comfortable that these discussions will generally end positively.
It does make sense to get feedback from a knowledgeable observer. However, I am afraid that being observed and evaluated on an ongoing basis is a dangerous thing to desire. Of course, being observed by my principle and other members of my school community is expected and desirable. If a school were right for me, I would fully expect to meet their standards or receive correction. Likewise, everybody can use some outside guidance. I would be grateful for whatever feedback I could get from people who have my interests and the interests of my students in mind.
I am just not sure the kind of people that would provide this corps of evaluators are the kind I by whom i would like to be evaluated. Perhaps I am just revealing more of my scars, but the most likely people to become evaluators are highly experienced teachers who like evaluating other people. This worries me for two reasons. First, “highly experienced” also means “learned to teach 20 or more years ago.” Likewise, “likes to evaluate people” might also mean “loves finding faults and telling other people what to do.” This is not to say that every evaluator would have these characteristics. Most of the teachers I know would be welcome in my classroom anytime as would most of the teachers I have had here. However, truth be told, there are many people in the world who would just love the opportunity to misuse the power of this role, though most likely with the best of intentions.
You know my background as a trader. What I LOVED about that was that the results were absolutely concrete, beyond debate, and that I had total control of outcomes. After years of being miserable as a student in the educational system (as you have read in my various pained posts on the subject), it was such a relief to finally find objective measures of my results.
Maybe with NCLB et al, we are moving more towards this evaluated vision of the world. On a classroom-by-classroom basis the results, at least as measured by standardized tests, will be clear. Of course, these results are themselves highly problematic, reflecting only a narrow subset of the year’s achievements and being highly dependent on the mix of students in the classroom. However, they remain objective standards that do reflect a certain truth impartially. It will be interesting to see as time passes how many of the tools of the private sector will be brought to bear on teacher quality. I hope some are added and that they are added wisely.