Professional Practice

How to Take the Stress Out of Teacher Evaluations (Ep. 019)

Teacher evaluations can be frightening! But they don’t have to be, especially if you have the confidence to show off and promote what you are doing in your classroom. In this episode, Cassie talks about some of her favorite strategies to develop that confidence you need, including how to put together lessons for your evaluation (5:45), why you shouldn’t go in without some experience (11:15), and how to make assessments work for your students (17:30). Full episode transcript below.


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When I tell you that I went into teaching art to elementary age children completely blind, that is no exaggeration by any means. My first day in the art room with elementary age kids was my first day to ever engage, teach, probably even talk to people in the five years to ten years range. So, as you can imagine, that learning curve was pretty stinkin’ big, but I was a pretty fast learner. I mean, it was a sink or swim. You all know what it was like, or what it is like to be that first year, and if you don’t yet, because you’re heading that way, well, kids just you wait.

I was just getting my sea legs when my principal pulled me aside and said “Miss Stephens, we need to do an evaluation of your teaching.” I said “What now? An evaluation?” I had no clue what he was talking about. I quickly grabbed a friend in my building and I said “What is this thing that my principal wants to do?” And she said “Oh, he’s just going to come in and watch you teach for the hour.”

No, no, no, no. This cannot be happening. What? How? Why? Sure enough I was to be evaluated just like we all are. In fact, my hands were sweating just thinking about it. I have been evaluated probably close to 100 times in my teaching career. Why are my hands sweating? Regardless. So he sets up the appointment, and I pick out, cherry pick out the best first grade class on the planet and I have a little conversation with them the day before my evaluation. “Guys, you do a really good job while Mr. ___ is in the room, I am going to bring in Rice Crispy treats for you.” Yeah, I’m not above bribery. Don’t even judge. Don’t even tell me you ain’t been there, and of course, this was back in the day when you can actually bring in fun treats for your kids to devour like wild animals.

So the day of my evaluation. The kids were absolute rock stars. I could not have asked for a better group, and as they’re lining up, one of the little cherubs raises his hand, and I just know he’s going to say something absolutely amazing and put a big, fat bow on this amazing gift that was my lesson, so of course, I call on him. “Miss Stephens, are we gonna eat them Rice Krispies now or are we gonna have them next art class because we were really good today and we earned them Rice Krispy treats.” Of course, I pretended like I had no idea what he was talking about while I gave him a wink, which of course, he didn’t have any clue what that meant. Needless to say, I’m pretty sure my principal was onto me, and that was the last time I bribed my students into behaving themselves during an evaluation, but I was just evaluated just last week, and I had a lesson that I felt like the kids not only really enjoyed and I had a great time teaching, but it also ticked all those lovely, little evaluation boxes. Those little hoops that we all have to jump through.

So I thought I’d share it with you guys today. This is Everyday Art Room, and I’m Cassie Stephens.

The evaluation method that was used when I first started teaching is so much different than the evaluation that they do now. When I was first teaching, I was evaluated on such things as my classroom management skills, my ability to interact with my students and engage, the environment that I teach them in. For me, that’s really important. All of those things, and I felt like I got so much out of my post-evaluation when I would chat with my principal about such things as management and engagement and environment. If you’re teaching now, you know that those things are definitely not what we’re evaluated on. Now, we have this laundry list of things that we have to do and say, and it’s almost so much stuff, it’s nearly impossible, and it really is not fun to be evaluated in this method. And oftentimes when you go to your post-evaluation and you’re getting a score, that score is based on an evaluation that was written for a Gen Ed teacher. So sometimes that score is not exactly that we want to hear, but I just want to say this before we talk about the lesson that I did, is don’t let any evaluation score define you.

There. I said it. You know what you’re doing. Have confidence in what you’re doing and just know that when you go to your post-evaluation, take it with a grain of salt. Especially since that evaluation was not meant for the likes of us wild and crazy art teachers. All right. Well, that being said, let’s talk about the lesson that I did with my fourth grade students.

I invited my principal to come to my fourth grade classes. She usually comes to my third or fourth grade because they’re the only classes that I have for an hour, and I feel like in order for me to actually tick all those boxes that I have to do during an evaluation, I need to have my hour long classes. Granted, my hour long classes are doubled in size so it’s kind of a full house but it’s manageable and the kids are used to it, so not a problem. And I decided to do the 100 Color Challenge with my students for my evaluation, and if you’re not familiar with that lesson, I’ll definitely go through it.

Now, if you’re being evaluated, one thing that you’re principal or your administration is always looking for is a pre- and post-evaluation. That’s not something that I do ever. I’m not even going to lie. I do not do pre-assessments with my students unless I’m being evaluated. I don’t do them as far as writing goes. I do them as far as skill level goes. I might do a pre-assessment for a self-portrait or a pre-assessment for a clay project, and then we do the lesson, but I don’t usually do a written pre-assessment. But knowing that I was going to be evaluated, I did for this particular lesson, so since this project is called the 100 Color Challenge and my students were going to be mixing colors with the primary colors, I gave them a pre-assessment that was all about asking them color theory questions.

I met my students outside of my art room at the door, and I said “Guys, you have three minutes to fill out this sheet.” On the sheet, there were seven questions. The seven questions were the following: What are the three primary colors? What are the three secondary colors? How do you make orange? How do you make green? How do you make purple? How do you make a color light? How do you make a color dark?

By the way, I will be sharing this on my blog this week, so you can definitely find out more info and visuals there. Now, this sheet had the exact same seven questions both at the top and at the bottom. See where I’m going with this? Pre-assessment at the top. Post-assessment at the bottom. I told them that when they walked into my room, they were to go straight to their tables, grab a pencil. They had three minutes to answer the seven questions at the top. When they were finished or when my three minute timer went off, they were to just put away their pencils, put their sheets in their table caddy, and meet me on the floor, and I reminded them that they were going to be doing this silently. I also told them it wasn’t a test, so they didn’t get that panicked and worried look on their face.

So my students walked in. My administrator was already sitting and relaxing and she watched them walk in, take the little pre-assessment, and when my timer went off, they put away their pencils and they joined me on the floor. Now, once they were on the floor I shared with them several visuals of artists, and these artists were all street artists who had worked with very bright and bold colors. And I shared they’re work with my students and I asked them lots of questions because if it’s one thing I always get dinged on during my evaluation it’s questioning. So, I made sure to ask them 110 questions all about the artwork we were looking at. I just kept throwing questions their way.

What do you think of this? Why do you think I picked all these works of art? What do you think they have in common? What do these works of art tell you about the artist? I mean, 110 questions. After we’d all settled on the fact that I had chosen these specific works of art because of their use of color, we began our chat of color theory, and then I had presented a keynote presentation of several different versions of the color wheel, and I started with the most basic one, which shared the primary colors and again, I started peppering them with questions.

After showing them the primary color slide, I asked them what is this? Why are these colors so important? Does anybody know what these colors are called? Now, granted the best part about having that pre-assessment was, it had already put all the correct vocab in their, so that was kind of working to my advantage because my kids were soundin’ real smart, rattlin’ off all the answers to the questions.

My next slide was of the color wheel in the next phase, meaning it had both the primary and the secondary, and I asked the kids if they could explain to me how do you read a color wheel, meaning if you want to make orange, how can you look at the color wheel and know how to make orange. How is the color wheel a tool for an artist to use. Our next slide from there included the tertiary colors, which had the names of the colors on it, which was great because we could say yellow-green is created by first creating green and adding more yellow. Yellow is written first because that’s the color you use more of. And then the last slide showed tints and shades. Now for this particular lesson I will tell you this.

I’m just going to interrupt this program and say, if you’re going to be evaluated on a lesson that you have never done, I don’t recommend it. Might I recommend doing a little bit of a dry run or a test run with another class beforehand. I did this exact same lesson with my third grade students two days prior to my evaluation. They were ready for this color mixing project, so it worked out great, and what I discovered was that doing the 100 Color Challenge with them, I could not include the color black on their pallet.It immediately made all of the colors they mixed very dark and very muddy, so I was glad that I did that with the third graders and discovered that because then I told my fourth graders you will be focusing on mixing colors today and if you’d like to create tints by adding white you can. We will be using black to add shades in another lesson.

So, after I shared with the students the multiple color wheels, I then shared with them the grid that they would be working on and announced that they were going to be doing the 100 Color Challenge. Now the key here is to get really super duper excited because you have to be so animated and wild and crazy to really get them ramped up for this lesson, for any lesson, really, but this one, I mean, they’re already kind of excited about. It’s not until they really settle into it and start mixing colors do they really start to get excited about it. But it also of course helps when you’re being evaluated to really crank up the animation.

So I shared with that they would be each getting their own palette, and I had just gotten styrofoam trays that I put the following colors on. I put red, blue, yellow, white, turquoise and magenta, and the reason I added turquoise and magenta is because I wanted them to have a variety of colors that they can make. And I’ve heard some debate that the primary colors aren’t the only primary colors, that actually magenta and turquoise are two colors that you also need to actually make all the colors in the rainbow. So I told them that this is a lot like science and this is a science experiment, and I did a little but of color mixing experimenting front of them, so they could kind of get the feel of what we were doing.

So the 100 Color Challenge is this: Each student gets that paint tray that I mentioned before of their own paint tray. That way if one person jacks up their paint tray then “I so sorry but you jacked up your own paint tray” and they don’t end up messing up their friends paint tray. They also get what looks like a worksheet, it essentially is, with a grid of small, 100 boxes all over it. They also get a paint brush, and I gave my students baby wipes to clean their brushes with. I felt like the dampness on the baby wipe did a little bit better of a job of cleaning their brush than a paper towel. I also just did not want to mess with the mess of water on this particular day.

So when they got to their seat, they, oh. And one last thing. They had to have a palette for mixing the colors on. I didn’t want them to mix the colors directly on the 100 Color Challenge sheet. I wanted them to have one separate sheet to act as their palette. For that, I used deli sheets, which is essentially wax paper. So you could easily just give your students a little sheet of wax paper to mix their colors on. So, as they started going to their seat, they started mixing up their colors and they were getting very, very excited. And this was great for my principal to hear the excitement and the enthusiasm that they’re having while they’re creating. We also stopped and talked a lot about math, and like I mentioned before, science which is great because then you’ve got your cross-curricular. Many of my students shared ratio. They started talking about how in math they use the word ratio and how during this art project they had to figure out what a ratio of what color made the best combination.

Now, one of the reasons my students are doing this 100 Color Challenge is because they had just finished sculpting sculptures of tubes of paint, which I know that’s hard to visualize, but you can find that video and that lesson also on my blog. So, they’re little sculptured tubes of paint, they’re going to be painting them. But they have to come up with their own original color that has it’s own original name. So that’s how this 100 Color Challenge tied in, because they’re just mixing and mixing colors that could possibly be used for their unique paint tube color.

The other thing my students had was they had a little bitty index card, that I referred to as their recipe card. I told them that whenever they came up with a color that they really, really liked and wanted to remember how to mix it, they were to put a little dot of it on their recipe card, write down the recipe with the ratio, and go ahead and give that cute, brand new color that you just invented a name. So now, there’s another writing component and a creative writing component at that.

Whew! So I know this is a long-winded chat, but I will say this. I know what you’re thinking. Did any of the kids actually finish mixing 100 colors? I would say no, even though two students did completely fill their paper. They didn’t exactly have a different color in each box. I’m pretty sure there was several colors that were the same throughout their little grid. So most of the kids only got about three rows finished on their grid. And that’s fine. They had a wonderful time. I can follow it up with that post-evaluation or that post-assessment that they did at the beginning of the class. Now they’ll be able to really confidently answer the questions of those last seven questions on that sheet when they come back to see me again. Ideally, I would have had them answer those last seven questions during that time I was being evaluated but to be honest, they were so into it.

We also had a lot of sharing during this project, meaning, I said to the kids, is there any color that you’ve just mixed, that you think is so fabulous that you’d like to share it with your friends? So hands would go up and so-and-so would raise his hand and tell us all about how he made pinky pie and here’s the recipe for pinky pie. You use a little bit of magenta, a lot of white and a tiny bit of yellow and while that child was describing the color recipe, several kids were excitedly mixing up the color on their palette. So it was just, I felt like, now granted I haven’t had my post-evaluation yet to give you the full details, but I felt like it was a great experience for me. I had a great time. My kids had a wonderful time, and I think it was a good lesson to be evaluated on.

Now, I do want to share this with you. I was thinking, gosh, they’re little painted papers that they made with all the little colors. They’re so beautiful, but yet they still have so many boxes to fill and this is one of those lessons where it’s exciting the first day, but if I bring it on back the next art class, I have a feeling the kids will not be as excited about it again. But the grid would be so beautiful filled in, so here’s my idea. I’m going to save their grids, and instead of it being the 100 Color-mixing Challenge just for the tempera paint we’re using. It’s going to be for multi-media. Yeah. So I’m thinking that whenever we start to use a brand new art supply, for example, color pencil or water color or oil pastel, this grid would be perfect for them to learn how to use that art supply in such a way that they could mix different colors on it. Or even just their regular pencil to learn value scale. Then when that grid is filled up I can imagine it would be full of a beautiful mixed media, different kind of value and color scale.

Now what we do with it from there, I don’t know, but I really think it would be a great learning tool. In fact I’m thinking it might be a wonderful thing to use at the beginning of the school year next year. So, like I said, I don’t know exactly how my evaluation went, but this project, this lesson, I felt like it really ticked all those important boxes and it was a fun and exciting engaging one for my students. I will say this: I did day to my lovely and amazing vice principal “I believe we’re done here.” That was my kind way of saying “Hey, class is over. You’re dismissed,” and she said “Oh, but Miss Stephens, you need to do your … ” Oh, gosh, now I can’t even remember what she asked me to do. “You need to make sure you’re friends say their I-can statements. Ah, I’m pretty sure I had done it, but I said “Oh, of course.”

So here’s how you can make sure you’re kids state all those things they need to state, use all those special words they have to say during your evaluation. If you listened to my podcast about call and response, just do a call and response with your kiddos. Have them clear their throat, ahem. Whenever my students hear me do that, they know to repeat after me “Today I learned … ” Today I learned how to mix colors, and then you can go through what the primaries, the secondaries, how you make a color light, how you make a color dark, and voila, evaluation complete!

All right, guys. I would love to hear your favorite lessons that you do when you’re evaluated, especially one’s that your principal’s were just blown over by. So please feel free to share those in the comments or drop me a line.

Tim: Hello. This is Tim Bogatz, the host of Art Ed Radio. Thank you for tuning in Everyday Art Room. If you’re looking for graduate credits in the upcoming year, make sure you check out under the courses tab. We offer over 20 online courses designed to help art teachers at every stage of their professional career. Whether you’re looking to develop a new art curriculum, get help with classroom fundamentals, incorporate new technology into the classroom or even just brush up on your own studio skills, we have the course for you. Our online graduate courses are practical, relevant and highly engaging. They’re also fully accredited and perfect for relicensure, logging hours or earning credits toward your master’s degree. Again, you can check out everything related to these courses at the Now let me turn the show back over to Cassie.

Cassie: Let’s take a little dip into the mailbag, shall we? This question comes from Bess. She says “I’m looking into investing into a good camera to use when creating instructional videos for my classroom. You do such an amazing job with your videos – why, thank you, Bess – I thought would just ask an expert. What type of camera do you use? And do you use any specific program for editing?”

Well, to be honest, what I use now is kind of like the lazy man’s way of making videos ’cause, uh, I am the lazy man. I used to use a regular point and shoot camera. You do not have to break the bank. What you do need to invest in is a tripod, and by invest I mean just buy one. It does not matter what kind of tripod you get, and you need to get a camera or just start by using your phone. I always tell people, don’t go out and spend a ton of money. All you really need is a phone and an editing app on your phone or your iPad. Currently, I just use my iPad, and I have iMovie on my iPad, and that is where I do all of my editing and then I just upload to YouTube from there. Easy peasy.

Now if you want to get a little fancier with your editing and add words, then I have found that you do have to do that on your laptop. Like if I have vocabulary that pops up, those are videos that I’ve created on my laptop because I can have a little bit more variety of things that I can do that way, but just to kind of get your feet wet, just start by using your phone and putting an editing app on your phone. If you enjoy doing it that way or if you feel like yeah, this is really something I want to do but I want my videos to be a little more bit better, then you can look into a camera. But for now, just go the cheap route and just get your feet a little bit wet.

Thanks for the question, Bess. That was awesome. This next question comes from Jillian. She asks “What the heck is the name of the artist who you’re teaching about in your art supply store lesson? I can’t find it?” Okay, her name is Lucy Sparrow. She is a young, British artist and she’s amazing. In case you’re not familiar. She’s an artist who has created an installation space of a convenience store. She calls it a “corner shop.” Everything in her convenience store is handmade from felt, hand-sewn and crafted with puffy paint meant to look like actual convenience store items, meaning you can see cans of Coke and cans of Pepsi and magazines, gum, candy bars. If it’s in a convenience store, this girl has made it out of felt and it is fabulous. And she sells her pieces at a very reasonable price.

I shared this artist with my students and they absolutely loved her. We’ve decided to put our own little spin on it and we are creating our own art supply store for our art show at the end of the year. We’re just getting a jump start on it. So my students are currently creating pencils, sculptures of pencils out of toilet paper tubes. Trust me it’s classier than it sounds. Crayons out of paper towel tubes. Basically, 101 things you can make out of toilet paper tubes, we are making it for our own art supply shop, and I’ve got a lot of those videos on what we’re making, like those paint tubes I mentioned. That’s also a part of our store. Those are both on my blog and my YouTube Channel. All inspired by the amazing British artist Lucy Sparrow. Check her out she’s fabulous. Great questions, ladies. Thank you so much.

If you have a question for me, please feel free to send it my way. You can reach me at

Don’t you find that it’s always those days where you are just on top of it. The kids are loving your lesson. You are just rockin’ it. You’re saying all the right words. You’ve got them so stoked and excited about what you’re doing, and that’s when you stop and think, why can’t my administrators see this? I mean, this is what I do. This is what I strive to be. Where are they? Why do they come in when my kids literally say – ya’ll, this really did happen during that lesson I mentioned – “I just made doodoo brown.” Yeah, I looked at that fourth grader with a crazy look on my face, like did you just say that? Because you know that is our secret word when you mix two many colors together. That’s our secret lingo. You don’t need to be sayin’ that in front of the principal. But, oh yeah, doodoo brown. Mm-hmm.

Yeah, it’s always when you’re being evaluated. That’s just how it works. New teachers, get used to it. They will never see you at your best. They will always see you at your doodoo brown. And with that, thank you so much for letting me share my evaluation lesson with you, and I hope you guys have the best week ever. This is Everyday Art Room, and I’m Cassie Stephens.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.