Dear School Administrators:
When you’re observing and evaluating teachers in their classroom, it’s vital that they have all of the information about what you expect from them before you enter their classrooms. If you haven’t done a good job of providing them with feedback, then you cannot expect them to be the type of teachers you consider to be effective teachers. When you’re observing and evaluating teachers, they need direct instruction about what you expect from them in the classroom. How can teachers do the jobs you expect for them to do when they never receive specific training on what you expect from them?
When you expect teachers to follow guidelines for a standards-based classroom, you cannot simply give them a standards-based classroom checklist and leave them to interpret the standards-based classroom checklist and expect them to be ready for you to come in and observe and evaluate their performance in the classroom. How silly is that? When you do this, it seems like you are setting the teachers up for failure—either intentionally or unintentionally.
Be fair to teachers and give them all of the information, training, materials, equipment, and etc. they need to be effective teachers. Before you begin grading teachers and asking them to grade themselves, how about you grade yourselves first. When you begin to engage in critically assessing yourselves first, then you may discover just why your teachers are not performing to a level that meets your expectations.
Although it is vital for students to perform well on standardized tests, you have to place a stronger emphasis on giving teachers credit for the ways they motivate students to learn. Many students would care less about a standardized test if they didn’t have teachers who are motivating them to care about the standardized test they have to take. When people run into your offices telling you about what a teacher is doing and not doing, begin to question the value and credibility of person who is telling you something a teacher does or does not do that doesn’t have an impact on student motivation and student academic achievement.
Some of you need to stop hiding behind your desks and computers and address the teachers you truly have problems with, instead of sending out emails addressed to everyone, making it appear like you’re having problems with a great number of teachers when it’s really just several teachers.
Many teachers are doing a great job and really care about their students. Be sure that you’re not doing things that will cause those teachers to leave the profession or your school. You don’t want the good or great teachers to leave your school while the ones who are just there to get a check remain. When you try to communicate to your teachers that you appreciate the job that they are doing, be sure that your words and actions evince that you truly mean what you’re attempting to communicate.
We all want the best for all of our students. Therefore, since you’re the leaders of our schools, then make sure you’re doing all you can to empower your teachers to be the best they can be.
Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison