Twice a year, we have a sit-down evaluation/summary of our teaching. I say summary, because we actually get many ten minute observations – “evals” I call them – throughout the semester by multiple administrators, then a longer observation by the administrator directly assigned to the specific teacher. The main evaluator ties all of these individual evals into a summary, and shares the good, the bad, the goals/hopes for the next year…. You get the idea. I got mine yesterday. To paraphrase an award-winning actress, ‘they like me, they really like me!’
I teach because I love what I do. I love developing relationships with these young people. I love the process of discovery as together we learn how to learn, as I watch their confidence in themselves grow, as I let them struggle and grapple with the elements of learning. This process enthralls me. I think about ways to engage and nurture, ways to teach differently, ways to explain, to get students up out of their seats, to mystify, to surprise, and to delight.
It makes what I love to do that much sweeter when I realize that my employers value what I am doing – and they like the way I am doing it. It isn’t often that we get thanked for what we do. Yesterday, my admin said “thank you.” He said it more than once, in more ways than one, and I knew he really meant it.
When I work with my students, I revel in those moments when every child is engaged simply because they want to see if they can “do it.” That may seem an odd phrase, but it really is what teaching does.
What we also do is give them the “challenge” of doing. That child that puts his head down, that student chatting with his neighbor, or the one who distracts the class with silly comments or antics – are usually the ones who don’t know how. They don’t know how to begin, they don’t understand, they don’t know or think they don’t want to know. They weren’t listening for whatever reason, so now they are stuck. They use these coping mechanisms because they are uncomfortable not knowing, or they want to deflect the punishment they know and expect will come from their not knowing. These students are the ones who are most in need of our best teaching. This is also where the relationship we build becomes so critical. Without it, teaching on any real and lasting level will not happen.
My admin told me he loved watching the way I “handled” the situations with my kids, the way I was able to keep them individually engaged. He said I listened to the children, and used their feedback to tailor the lesson to address those needs.
Where does this knowledge leave me, the teacher? For me, it means my lessons need to lead to successes, small, visible, measurable, and very real, for that child! It means I have to meet each child where they are. It means I remind them of what they already know, encourage them to use that knowledge, and help them connect that to something else. Then I do that all over again with the next child, the next lesson. It never ends. But every layer added will eventually produce real learning: understanding, retention long term, and a personally rewarding feeling for the child that, I believe, will motivate these children to become persons hungry for more challenges, more successes – you, know, those college and career ready adults of our goals!
My most recent, and longest, eval was just two days ago. I received two “exemplary”, among the “proficient” scores from my admin. They were for the differentiations in the lesson and for the rigor. He commented on the expectation I had that every one of my students can and will learn the material, and that it showed through in my teaching. Then he told me that not every teacher felt that way. He also said that he expected next year that I would see even more “exemplary” scores. Apparently, I’m not the only one here with expectations!
We are moving into the last great pull of this semester. Between county requirements and unit material, there will be a test of some sort every week until the finals. In between, spring break will come and go, taking much of the student learning with it! There is no longer enough time. As my mom said to me as I left for college at eighteen, “if I haven’t taught you by now, it’s too late,” I want to believe that my students will carry something good from their time with me into their future, and not just memorize, pass the test, and move on.
“Thank you for teaching the way you do. Don’t stop doing what you are doing. You are a wonderful teacher, and we appreciate everything you do. Thank you.”
I couldn’t do what I do without my kids. I love what I do, even on the “bad” days, when discouragement, frustration, and a deep questioning of my own abilities hits hard. So, to all of you who teach, who struggle with whatever stumbling block: student, administrative, personal fears and concerns, that keeps you awake at night – THANK YOU FOR TEACHING THE WAY YOU DO! You matter. What you do matters. And even if you don’t hear it from anybody else, hear it from me, another teacher. YOU ROCK! (You really do!) Thank you.