It’s great the way Twitter enables us to hear the voices of those we’d never otherwise hear or read about.
Just this morning, noticing that I had a new follower – @lambertn – I peeked at the Twitter profile to check out a little about this person. As my eye flicked over their latest tweets, I noticed an RT on a subject of interest – an issue that just happened to be floating around in my head at the moment. I of course then started poking around for the author of the tweet that was RT’d.
The post was from a Principal, Julie Vincentsen, an Elementary School Principal in Massachusetts, USA who blogged about evaluating teachers on her blog One Principal’s Musings. While neither the description of a process recently put in place for her staff nor the remarks by a couple of people who had posted comments on her post – Reflecting on Traditional Evaluations ….. – are new or unique, the issue of valuing our teachers and giving them feedback is, I think, one of the most important issues facing our schools’ administrations.
Like the students in our care, teachers need to have feedback in the form of constructive criticism for several obvious reasons:
- to ensure teaching performance is at an acceptable standard
- to ensure that curriculum content is being delivered to students according to set standards
- to ascertain that teaching styles meet the needs of all students in the care of a teacher
- to check that effective attention is being given to the wide range of students that present in each class
In her post, Vincentsen mulls over whether or not teacher performance would be altered by the evaluation recorded in her reports or whether in fact change would come about through regular and frequent conversations she held with teachers.
Evaluation can be considered from two points of view: that of the principal or school administration and that of the teacher. Considering the reasons for the evaluation is a question that needs to be addressed at the outset. Is it to be able to tick all the boxes on a questionnaire or statement of performance or is the evaluation intended to improve teaching performance?
I am convinced that if the aim of the administration is to improve or develop teaching performance, this can best be given by regular feedback in the form of discussion and role modelling. Setting in place processes whereby the teacher can engage in peer to peer observation and/or team teaching or providing the teacher with a mentor is also a sure way to expose teachers to new methods and programs or new ways to approach specific issues.
But, of all the processes that can be put in place, the power of praise and appreciation of the efforts of teachers in our schools is, I feel, the most powerful way of improving and developing best practice of our teaching force. Praise and appreciation are very powerful tools which can:
- effect improved performance
- build confidence
- develop a team atmosphere in which teachers work more willingly together
- create an awareness of a positive skill
- act as a confidence builder
- be an affirmation that the teachers’ approach is good, appropriate or correct
- ensure repeat performance at an excellent standard
- evoke the desire to continually perform at a better level
- develop a sense of trust between administration and teachers
- make the teacher feel that they are a valuable asset to the school
Praise is a technique as old as the profession of teaching itself. Isn’t this, after all, what we do with the students in our classes all the time? Haven’t we all seen the faces of our students shine when a simple word of recognition of their efforts is made? Doesn’t this praise ensure that the student tries harder to please the teacher? Don’t we then see enhanced performance? If this process works for our students, why then shouldn’t/couldn’t this be a regular practise by all principals in all schools with all teachers rather than resorting to the old draconian format of teacher evaluation? In fact, if all of us working in schools were to share in the process of giving each other praise, valuing the efforts of each of us in the department, faculty or campus of a school – wouldn’t we all aspire to greater heights?
The reality is that teachers are the most important asset of our schools. Principals, school administrations, campus and department/faculty heads as well as teachers across the school would be wise to engage in the praise and appreciation of their fellow teachers to ensure that our schools become centres of excellence in which we all thrive.