As students, we have all been in the position where a teacher says, “I’m getting evaluated tomorrow so I expect you all to be on your best behaviors and act like the good little angels I know you are.” Though unprofessional, this attitude can be understandable. Teachers strive to put their best foot forward every day, especially when being judged by their peers or superiors.
One of the biggest controversies regarding teacher evaluations is if it’s right of them to “over plan” or influence their student’s behaviors when they know someone will soon enter their classroom to critique their work.
“It’s hard not to change what you’re doing when you know you’re being watched,” said Social Studies Dept. Head Kelly Miliziano. “That’s human nature even when you’re working at any profession if you know your supervisor is coming.”
Hillsborough County altered the system about three years ago. Instead of having a broad rubric and having evaluators make surprise visits, the rubric has become much more specific (almost too specific for some) and the schedule consists of a mix of formal, informal (lasting 20-25 minute), and pop-in (10-15 minute) evaluations. For teachers, the least popular are generally the informal, because both those and the pop-in observations are unannounced. Although some feel they aren’t given enough time to prepare an “Exemplary Lesson Plan”, most teachers say they show the human side of teachers in their classrooms.
“I think that the moment that [teachers] are caught by surprise is completely fair; you [they] should always be teaching,” said English Dept. Head Calvin Dillon. “[Teachers] shouldn’t take it easy on days [they] are being observed.”
While they might not be evalutee’s favorite, they are the most efficient for the evaluators. Assistant Principal Mark Watson said that while formal evaluations take the whole 50 minutes of a class, he could easily get around 3-4 pop-ins done in one class period.
Along with the observer’s opinions, it has become more popular to incorporate student feedback in observations. For example, evaluators will ask questions like, “How does this activity tie in to what you have been learning?”. The problem here arises: will they be truthful? For example, if a student didn’t care for a lesson or activity that day, or were scolded in class, they might not be as kind as they would on any other day. There’s always the idea of students filling out surveys at home, but can the county really depend on them doing so? Despite this, most teachers welcome student feedback and use it to continue building their teaching methods.
“The idea itself is very good. I would like to see that student piece,” said Science Dept. Head Jacqueline Eisenhauer.
The general consensus is that the new evauluations are better and more easily tailored to any teaching style. The old rubric had odd sections, like whether teachers waited long enough between questions to allow for ample student response. Evaluators also didn’t want to see teachers coaxing students to answer or giving them extra hints. The newer rubric wants to see less teacher to student action and more student to student action. Evaluators want to see students help each other through the lesson and work more independently.
I believe that if a teacher is doing their job to help students learn and succeed throughout the whole year, that they should have nothing to worry about. By being built up by their peers and staying confident in themselves and their skills, teachers should heed no thought to the couple of bad reviews or sour students.
Emily Goldbach / Opinion Editor