What is the point of teacher evaluations?
As a crusty mmmmmph-year veteran of the classroom, I am always amused when it comes time to go through the whole teacher- evaluation sham each year.
Whazzat? Did I just pronounce this tedious process a sham? Why yes, I did.
Here's why: because the administrators have been trained like a set of circus seals tooting wee horns not to write anything actually specific on these forms. Our highest level of evaluation is entitled "meets expectations." Whoa. Glad to know that I am busting my hump and that that "meets expectations." I mean, I have a colleague who actually saved a kid's life by doing artificial resuscitation on the child after collapsing, and what did his evaluation say? "Meets expectations." And sure, I bet we all expect people to attempt to perform CPR on a child if called upon, but really? Couldn't there have been a tiny shout-out in the yearly form for acknowledging that most teachers (thankfully) are NOT called upon to actually breathe life back into a student's body, and so really, she had EXCEEDED expectations at least in this area?
So yeah, there can be no mention of excellent feats we have performed-- like persuading the kid with school phobia to show up every "tomorrow" or raising test scores a full stanine and single-handedly breaking up 2 shouting matches before they became actual fights, and teaching non-stop from thirty minutes before school starts to an hour after school ends and all of the million things we do RIGHT IN FRONT OF ADMINISTRATORS. But they are not to mention these things in our evaluations, because then someone would actually have to pay attention. This timidity on the part of the human resources honchos also explains why I am implacably opposed to merit pay, by the way, because the real teachers of merit tend to go about their business and tend to be too busy to ingratiate themselves to administrators.
And then, there's the other end of the spectrum. Weak teachers also benefit from this spinelessness-- er, I mean, "lack of exactitude"-- because the administrators are uninterested in doing the real work that is required to make sure that they are not sued should they actually attempt to terminate a teacher who is not getting the job done-- like the guy who borrows everyone else's lessons but perks along under the radar because he is pressed and well-dressed at all times and he hangs out in the principal's office during his free time (and frankly, he's got a lot of that). Add the fact that he has administrator certification, so not only does he know how to play the game, but he is also protected by his potential status as a future administrator (and he'll probably make it, too, since like calls to like.)
So here are the darling identical pieces of paper handed to me as my evaluation, all those boxes checked "meets expectations." I am personally thanked, and my administrator really does sound grateful for helping him out by taking care of my own discipline and such-- but we can't put that down in the actual evaluation. I do appreciate him at least being willing to acknowledge me verbally, though.
I also appreciated him telling me that when I started teaching he was eight years old. THAT was special.
But when my records are perused years from now, you will not be able to discern any difference between them and those of most of my colleagues. So really, what's the point? We will all still carry on. Some will work harder than others, some will coast, and the grindstone of evaluation shall not grind either of them differently.