You know, the image of teachers being painted in the media lately is really starting to grind my gears. I mean, it seems as if everyone who is currently NOT IN THE CLASSROOM a) feels like their opinion should be known and heard loud and clear (for some reason) and/or b) thinks of teachers as total morons who spend their days thinking up ways to avoid doing hard work and cowering behind a fancy bulletin board aimed at distraction when an administrator happens to walk by.
Like we’re all high fiving each other in secret because we “got away with something”? Like we should all watch out before someone fires us and teaches our cowering, lazy butts a lesson?
I, for one, never shied away from hard work if I believed in what I was doing and thought it would yield results for my friends. Sometimes, I took on ADDITIONAL work (on top of the mandated dog-and-pony paper trail we were required to create) to achieve better results for my friends. I also never cowered. EVER. I'm not the one who should be ashamed after all.
This weekend, I read this opinion piece in the NY Times about teacher evaluations. At first, I was all, "Who grades the graders? What a great title! What a great idea! OF COURSE teachers should get to evaluate the performance of their administration. Right?"
Then I read the actual piece and realize that they BARELY touched on the idea of teachers having a say at all and really just focused on how crappy our evaluation system is. And I totally agree. Teacher evaluations are currently pretty crappy and useless. But somehow, The Powers That Be make it sound like it's the TEACHERS’ FAULT that our evaluations suck. I mean, talk about confusing your ass with your elbow (as my grandmother would say).
I have written here before about how sucky and unproductive my past observations were. I felt like I was begging someone, "Please come to my room. Watch me. Give me some feedback. Give me something to work on....I'll take anything!!" Because, you know what? If you're a good teacher and it looks like you've crossed all your t's and dotted all your i's, do you know what happens then?
You get more challenging feedback to push you as a professional? No.
You get to initiate interesting side projects to push you as a professional? No.
You get to observe your co-workers to encourage learning from one another? No.
You get ignored. Hard core. No matter how fabulous your shoes are. Which at first sounds lovely, but is really mind numbing when you're the type of person who is constantly trying to improve. And really, aren't the best teachers constantly trying to improve? Evidently, those of us with tenure immediately become drooling idiots who refuse to do anything that isn’t clearly stated in our contract. Or at least that’s the popular word on the street these days. Boyfriend, listen, if we stuck to “just the contract” we’d be in a lot worse shape! (I don’t know who “boyfriend” is, but that last statement just felt like it called for a “boyfriend”, don’t you think?)
A few years ago, as a tenured teacher, I learned that I was entitled to doing a year-long investigation into a topic of my choosing, which had to be approved by my administrator. Hot, right? I'm imagining all these fabulous projects where teachers try new strategies or author new units and share it with one another and it all turns into one big, super nerdy teacher love fest! Needless to say, I. Was. Pumped.
I designed this elaborate study regarding the use of classroom space to promote increased student independence and was stoked. Nerd alert! Nerd alert! With my supervisor, The Weave (insert ominous music here), I laid out dates throughout the year when I would have to check in regarding my progress.
Date number one comes. Nothing.
Date number two comes. Nothing.
Date number three comes. Guess what? It also goes. Annnnnd....Nothing.
No email, no phone call, no observation, no question as to my progress, no response to my emails, phone calls or updates.
Fast forward to the end of the year.
The Weave: We need to get in a bunch of observations you missed regarding your project.
Me: What? I missed them? I was supposed to go somewhere?
The Weave: We need to get them in. That's why I hate these projects. It's too much paperwork.
Me: But I've been super excited about the project. I feel like it's a chance to push myself.
The Weave: Okay, so I'm going to come in three times next week.
Me: To see what?
The Weave: What?
I don't even remember if she came in. I do remember I had to sign a bunch of forms saying that I successfully completed my project even though no one ever saw anything from me.
Was I cowering in the corner? NO! I was jumping up and down like a petulant five year old throwing a temper tantrum saying, "Look at me! Help me! I've got ideas! Hey...I'm over here!" I mean, if neon had been fashion forward at that time, I would have worn it as a way to attract more attention to what was going on in my classroom.
Was I looking for ways to get out of doing hard work? NO! I embraced this new project. I was excited! I was learning! I could feel myself evolving! It was so wonderfully nerdy!
Regardless, I got an S. Or whatever you get. S for "suck it," I guess.
So, yeah, when do those administrative evaluations come out?