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In the fourth of an ongoing series of podcasts for new teachers, Janet Taylor joins Tim to discuss what new teachers need to know about evaluations. Listen as they cover the differences between different evaluation frameworks, the best approach and mindset going into your evaluation, and how to use the feedback you receive to improve your teaching. Full Episode Transcript Below.
Tim: Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show’s produced by The Art of Education University. And I’m your host, Tim Bogatz.
We are back today with another episode for new teachers. Now, over the past few months, Janet Taylor and I have been working to put together this series. We’ve done episodes on curriculum, classroom management, organization. And today, we are going to talk about evaluations, what new teachers need to know about their evaluations that hopefully have been going on throughout the year. A lot of final evaluations will be coming up soon, but I think it’s always worth talking about, and we’re going to dive really deep today into everything that needs to be said, hopefully about evaluation and also everything that teachers can do to help themselves when it comes to evaluations, how they can be successful, how they can not necessarily impress their administration, but just show that not only do they have a good handle on what’s happening in their classroom, but they also have the capacity and the curiosity for growth.
And as we’ve talked about throughout all of these episodes, it’s incredibly important to think about our teaching, to reflect on our teaching and to try and get better, and so that will be a big part of the conversation today. And as always, the disclaimer, if you know any first year, any new art teachers, even pre-service teachers, send them our way, we would love for more people to be listening to these episodes. AOEU has PRO Packs and FLEX resources, articles, YouTube series, guides, so many other things that can really be of assistance when you’re first getting started as a teacher. So, please send the new teachers you know to AOEU to check everything out. Okay, a lot to talk about with organization. Janet is here. She is waiting and we’ll go ahead and bring her on now.
Janet Taylor, my favorite recurring guest, welcome back to the show. How are you?
Janet: I’m doing well. It’s always great to be here. Always great to chat.
Tim: Well, we always have a lot of things to talk about. And today, we are going to dive into evaluations, which I don’t know, I think is an important topic. I think it’s also can be kind of an intimidating topic, especially for new teachers, having somebody come in and see what’s happening in your room and they’re judging you, let’s be honest, your admin is judging you. So, I guess, I’ll just open it up to you, besides that, why are evaluations so scary your first few years?
Janet: Yeah. So, I think oftentimes, we go from being a student teacher to finally having our own classroom where our students are pretty much our only people who are judging us, and it’s a different dynamic, right? And they don’t really hold our job in that place. So, I feel like anytime somebody is coming from the outside and peering in on your classroom, it feels really uncomfortable, right? Like, “This is kind of my space and my safe place.” Right?
Tim: Yeah. And to be honest, no matter how many years I teach, I never get used to, I never want other people in my classroom.
Janet: No. I always am happy to have people come into my classroom, but I always feel that lens, like they’re watching and they’re judging, and they’re thinking… So, it is what it is. So, I guess, the other pieces that kind of go with being so scary is the unknown, right?
Janet: It’s always like, what does it actually look like? What are they actually looking for? And then who is the person who’s coming to observe and evaluate you? If they’re your department chair, somebody maybe you have a relationship with after time, it doesn’t feel as scary, I feel like, right?
Tim: Yes. Yes.
Janet: Because they understand you already, you’ve had multiple conversations and they can read between the lines of what’s happening in your classroom, but if it’s an administrator or somebody on that level, a lot of times, that feels very uncomfortable, right? Like, “I barely talk to you, you actually hold my job in your hands.” And so, you just don’t know kind of what they’re coming from with their background, how they can view your classroom from an art education lens, do they understand all of that? Do they actually support the arts? There are some admin that that’s not their priority-
Tim: They’re indifferent to it, or they don’t have knowledge about it, and actually, I want to talk about that a little bit later and just like how we can inform them and what we can tell our admin about, but anyway, go on.
Janet: … Yeah. And then also, when you’re thinking about the evaluation process, and usually there’s a framework, which I think we’ll talk about more, but sometimes it’s like trying to translate… I kind of talk about this when we go to professional development as a art school, and they give you all these strategies for teaching and your brain is like overloaded with how to translate all of what they’re telling you to make it authentic in the art room, because it’s just different, right?
Tim: Yes, it is. It is.
Janet: So, I think sometimes we’re trying to figure out that piece too of, “How does this framework fit what’s happening in my classroom?” So, I think the other piece to this about the evaluation that feels really high risk, they’re only coming into your room a couple of times a year, they’re coming in with the purpose of evaluating you, that evaluation is going to be ultimately determining your retainment or longevity in the classroom. And then on top of it, they’re coming to one class period, and anything could happen, the things that you don’t want somebody to observe, and you’re like, “What just happened? Why this class is amazing every other day, but of course, when they come, something crazy happens?” Right? Or just in general, maybe the evaluator doesn’t see all the amazing things that you do on a daily basis to cultivate that culture. And so, I think from the perspective of the teacher who’s being observed, those are kind of the main pieces of why it feels so scary, right?
Tim: Right. Okay. So, let me ask you, does it have to be that scary? Do you think it should be… Should you be nervous about it? Should you be worried about it? How do you think people should feel when somebody’s coming in?
Janet: Well, I guess, it depends on the dynamic of the situation. And like you said, as a veteran teacher who goes through this all the time, it still is intimidating, right? I’m always nervous when they come in. I always want it to look the best and be the best that I can show off, but I think there’s that mindset shift, and we, as art educators through the years have shifted in this direction too of like, “This is feedback, this is a process, we’re looking for growth.” And I think if we can take that mindset into our professional setting as where the student learning, I think that helps, right? When we can think, “Okay, this might not go perfectly, and also I’m going to get feedback from somebody who evaluates and looks at classrooms across all content areas, and can give me maybe some interesting perspectives that I might not have thought of otherwise, because I spend so much time in my classroom, in my bubble.” Right?
And so, they’re not really intended to be punitive or judgey, judgemental. I like the word evaluative, or assessing. But also I think it’s a great place or a great time to show the admin or show somebody what all the amazing things that are happening in your classroom, right? We talk a good talk or we can show end product, but to have people come in and actually see the creative chaos and the problem solving that’s going on with our students and our teaching, I think that’s one of the largest advocacy tools that we could actually have, right? And then I also want to add that as somebody who observes student teachers now, I’m constantly telling them this, “This is not a gotcha moment, the whole point is for me to look at this.” And they’re lucky in the regard that I am an art educator and I can look at their teaching from an art education lens.
And we know that not everyone is trained to look at that situation with that, like we said, but as an observer… So, a good example is my student teachers are like, “Well, it’s just a studio day.” And I say, “Well, yeah, but I know what good teaching looks like, and I know what that looks like in a studio situation. It’s not, you just say what’s happening, and then the kids just do stuff. There’s so much that goes into even a studio day.” And so, as an administrator or as an evaluator or an observer, you’re trained in evaluating based on whatever framework or rubrics that you have. And so, they’re really good at seeing good teaching, no matter what content it is.
Tim: Yeah, absolutely. And I think art is not the only subject that has studio days.
Janet: Right. Right.
Tim: Other classes have work days, science has lab days. Your admin knows what should be happening, and if they don’t, you can explain it to them, you don’t need to feel this pressure to perform with this great lesson like, “It’s okay to do an eval during a studio day, and it’s not the worst thing in the world.” And I just wanted to echo one point that you made that I really appreciate, you need to look at evaluations as an opportunity for feedback. It’s not like this performance where you have to be perfect, it’s an opportunity to show off what’s happening in your classroom and get better at what you’re doing in your classroom.
Tim: Okay. So, maybe we should have started with the breakdown of what evaluations are all about, but I had to get my little therapy session out of way and talk about why these are so scary for me, but no, I feel like we’ve kind of put everybody at ease now, so we can jump into what this is all about. So, let’s talk about a lot of different stuff, sort of what the beginning of the year can look like with our goal setting, what you’re trying to accomplish through the year. Let’s talk about like formal and informal stuff, let’s talk about frameworks, just a big overview of what admins are looking for throughout the year. So, I guess, can we talk about just beginning of the year, I know a lot of teachers are asked when they’re in the evaluation cycle to set goals, to come up with a plan. What advice do you have for people who are asked to do that? What are some best practices? How should they approach goal setting?
Janet: Okay. So, just go back just a minute, because I was thinking about, as you were talking about this, we’re talking about all of our evaluations based on our experiences and not everybody’s school is set up the same, so I do want to-
Janet: … give the caveat that your situation might look different, however, based on both of our, Tim, yours and my many different experiences with different schools and whatnot, I think this is kind of like a general explanation to help with that, right?
Janet: So, first thing you said was on cycle, and I realized when I was talking to my student teachers about this, they didn’t know what that meant, right? So, if you are non-tenured, so again, that depends on your school, right? Some schools don’t even have that process, right? But if you are non-tenured in a public school, you’re typically on cycle for review or evaluation every single year until you are tenured, right? So, once you’re tenured, it’s like usually every other year or possibly every two years, depending on your district of that-
Tim: Oh, I did every three years.
Janet: … Oh, my gosh, you’re so lucky.
Tim: I know, right?
Janet: Now, again, I joke about being so lucky, and I think the biggest thing is not about the observation piece or that part, it’s about all the paperwork that you didn’t have to worry about, because the paperwork can be a lot. Okay. Because I actually like getting feedback, I really enjoy talking through the process and stuff like that, but the paperwork I could do without. So, yeah, once year tenured, you’re usually off-cycle for a year, two years of according to Tim, like 10 years, whatever it is. And so, that’s the on-cycle, off-cycle and that’s what that means. But even if you are tenured, typically, you still set, like you said, some beginning of the year goals for the year. And so, you usually meet with your department chair or your supervisor, your administrator, and you basically talk about some goals and usually there might be something more personally, professionally, you’re interested in.
It could be something specific to your teaching practice that you want to get better at or incorporate more of. And then typically, there’s some sort of school or district goal that you’re trying to align to. Like a couple of years ago, our school goal was social-emotional learning, and so we wanted to make sure one of our goals aligned to social-emotional learning needs, right? So, that’s usually you start that in the beginning. And then around mid-year, you meet again to see how your goals are going and progressing. And then at the end of the year, you meet again to go over the goals, see what you’ve accomplished. And then usually again, depending on the school or district, you have about three times you’re observed throughout the year, and so usually maybe one or two in the beginning of first semester, and then one or two in the second semester, and then those are wrapped up into your evaluation process.
And so, when you’re talking about your goals, usually your goals are things like, “I know when I moved a choice, I wanted to implement more of that. And so, then I wanted to provide evidence of that happening on a professional level. So, maybe I was going to conferences, maybe I was researching, maybe I got a grant to make stations,” or whatever, whatever it was, right? And then in the mid-year goal meeting, I show like, “This is what I’m kind of doing.” And then we usually talk about, “Okay, so where are you going to go with the second semester and then the end of this semester? Okay. How did you finish that up? And what would you like to do from there?” So, I really like those meetings actually, because they do feel like you’re part of that community and that there’s purpose.
Tim: Right. And it’s part of a process of you getting better, you’re getting that feedback, you’re implementing it, and then you’re looking for more, and that’s very worthwhile.
Janet: … Yeah. And you’re like showing off all the things that you’re doing, which I think is also a really fun to be like, “Look at all these cool things that are happening.” So, that’s kind of the overview of at least… Was yours about similar? Was that a similar experience?
Tim: Yeah. Well, it depends on my principal. So, I will say, when I had a good principal, yes. When I had a not-so-good principal, I think I was in the evaluation cycle, I did all my goals, and then he just ignored me for most of the year. And then it got to be April or May, he is like, “I still need to come in for my three observations.” I was like-
Janet: Oh, my gosh.
Tim: … “Okay, come on in anytime.” And then another two or three weeks went by and he had not come in, and then he came up and he brought me the paperwork, like blank paperwork, he’s like, “Can you just sign this and I’ll fill it out?” And I was like, “No, no, we cannot do that. I’m not signing blank papers that serve as my evaluation.” So, anyway, I don’t know if that’s really the best story to tell during this episode.
Janet: Actually, it is a good story, because we’re sitting here talking about all the things that make evaluations kind of awesome or evaluators awesome, but it’s the truth of it is it’s not always like sunshine and roses, right?
Tim: Yeah, absolutely. And so, I don’t know, ideally, yes, it should be a year-long thing, but sometimes just real talk, it’s hoops, you need to jump through depending on what your administrator wants to do and what they have time for and all that kind of stuff. But yeah, ideally, we’re going throughout the year, we’re getting that feedback. We’re trying to improve, we’re trying to implement new things, and I think that’s always worthwhile, but let’s go back to what good administrators do. And I want to talk about, I guess, another thing I think people need to know is the difference between formal versus informal evaluations. And like I said before, it’s always weird for me to have people drop into my classroom, but then I learn to look at it as an advocacy tool where I can say, “Hey, here are the things that we’re doing right now. Check out these cool things that are going on. Please go talk to the kids, see what they’re doing.” And I’d love to have students explain to my admin, like what’s happening in the art room.
So, even if they are just dropping in for an informal evaluation, it’s great for them to get a look at everything that’s going on. But anyway, can you just define for everybody just formal versus informal, and what admins are looking for with each of those?
Janet: Right. No, I thought you had really good points about them popping in and being able to have that conversation. So, those would be informal, right? So, we talked about the cycle and how many observations are happening and those are formal. Okay. So, the formal observations are included in your evaluation. They are scheduled ahead of time unless you have Tim’s old principal, and they must… Now, again, it depends on your framework in your district, but in my case, and all of my experiences that I’ve had, they must include a pre-conference with that observer and a post-conference where you kind of debrief what happened. And for them to be included in your evaluation, they need to have all of those components, but informal can happen. And so, sometimes when you’re on-cycle, off-cycle, they might say, “You need to have three formal and one informal,” or something like that.
Tim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Janet: Or they might just come in, because they want to check out and see what’s going on. So, if those informal observations are to be included in your evaluation paperwork, then there typically must be a post-conference discussion. So, if this is unannounced, you still get a chance to debrief. If they don’t schedule that with you, it feels like, “Why are you coming in then? What’s the point of that, right?” The whole point is to get better, right? Typically, informal tend to be not necessarily the whole period, they’re usually the person’s coming in kind of quick, they might spend half the period or they might come in the beginning and leave, or they might stay for the whole period. It depends on your observer.
Tim: All right. So, next question, I want to rely on your expertise here to ask about frameworks, because as we mentioned earlier, everyone’s situation is different, everybody’s admins are different and how they’re being evaluated is different. Now, in my teaching, I’ve only ever done Danielson, the Danielson framework, and I have come to appreciate it. I like the Danielson framework overall. I think there’s a lot of good opportunities, especially for art teachers to really excel within that framework, but I guess, I’d like to have you talk a little bit about frameworks, not just Danielson, but maybe Marzano, anything else that’s out there and just kind of share with people what they are all about and what people need to know about the frameworks that administrators are looking at?
Janet: Yeah. So, I will say I’m not a deep expert in any of this, but I do have a lot of information on it or experiences with it. So, same thing with me, I have personally only experienced a Danielson model, Danielson framework or something that was inspired or based off of that. So, like when I taught in Chicago Public Schools, they use their framework called REACH, and it’s basically the Danielson model, right? The Marzano model is very… Basically, the reason I bring those up is because those are the different types of maybe most commonly used frameworks for evaluation, but they kind of have the same components, right? And so, that’s kind of more, I think helpful to talk about today, because we all have different situations. I do want to plug or bring up that at AOEU, there’s been a big team of people working on this framework for teaching.
It’s a framework for K12 art educators and that is available, like a one page download, and if you are a PRO subscriber, you can actually access each competencies descriptors with rubrics to help you identify very specific areas of your teaching practice that you want to dig into. But the one pager is available to everybody, and I have told my student teachers, “Hey, I think you should take this, print it out and keep it in that binder.” And if you all have listened to our previous one about organization where I talked about the binder that I carry around everywhere, this is like a perfect example where I keep that with any evaluation paperwork, right? Because the framework that we provide has all of the components that would be in a Marzano or Danielson framework, but it also includes specific areas like studio practices that really support art educators. So, I really like it because it breaks things down, it makes it… Like I said, that whole translating thing that we’re always doing, this kind of is like for us, right? By our teachers, for our teachers. So, I would highly recommend that piece.
Tim: Yes. I think that’s an excellent recommendation. So, I guess, I want to kind of go through the different aspects of what are on evaluations, the things that are, I guess, universal, no matter your type of evaluation. So, can we do a speed round… I don’t know that we do anything too speedy with these hour-long podcasts, but can we just kind of jump through different aspects of what might be on an evaluation? And then you can tell me what administrators are looking for, or what you’re looking for when you’re checking out what your student teachers are doing? So, let’s go through, let’s say first, planning and preparation, like curriculum type things, what are you looking for there?
Janet: So, typically, we’re looking for your content expertise, how do you understand art ed art in the art world? How are you integrating that into your instructional practice? How are you planning for that? How are you researching that kind of a thing? Your pedagogy practice, your instructional outcomes, lesson objectives, and how those all align together is what we’re looking for. So, typically, when you go in for your observation, you will get a form that asks specific questions, or they might say, “Provide me with your lesson plan for the day.” And so, these are all that goes under the planning and preparation. And it also includes knowing your students and making sure that you serve, and making sure that the content that you are teaching them is relevant to them and pertinent.
Tim: Okay. So, quick follow up on that, like when we’re talking about knowing your students’ teaching to them, what about instructional strategies? When you’re delivering that said lesson plan, what are people looking for there?
Janet: So, are you talking about specifically the delivery aspect or?
Janet: Okay. So, typically, as an observer, we’re looking for how you’re communicating with your students, what kinds of questioning strategies that you’re using to engage your students? How are students engaged? How are you working with them to support their learning process? And then how are you as a teacher being flexible and responsive to their needs in that moment? And so, remember way back in the beginning here, I had mentioned about how they come to see your one class and it’s like, “That’s the horrible… It always goes so well and then this was horrible.” And so, that’s the other piece, that gotcha you that I do want to connect with, because that’s not the purpose either, right? How you’re being responsive and flexible to situations that pop up and arise, like we’re all human beings and you’re working with a lot of other young human beings and so anything could happen, and so how are you working with them? And so, that is what they’re looking for in terms of that instructional delivery part.
Tim: Okay, cool. I want to talk about classroom management in just a second, and sort of dealing with all that, but I was thinking about with lesson plans and all that, is assessment usually part of that? I know that’s not the easiest thing to check out when somebody’s in an observation, but is that a big of the framework?
Janet: Yeah. So, the assessment is kind of a weird piece, because it kind of goes into both planning and preparation as well as your delivery, right? So, planning and preparation, you might be planning, or you’re thinking ahead about, “What kinds of formative assessments do I need to integrate into my delivery?” Or I might be thinking, “What are my summative rubric, my summative criteria, my goals that I want to make sure my students…” And that’s part of that like alignment piece and all of that, right? But it also kind of falls under the instructional delivery, because it’s like the questioning strategies and-
Janet: … Yeah, how are you organizing… When we talked about organization last time too, somebody had asked about like, “Oh, my evaluator said that my period felt unorganized,” or something. Wasn’t it?
Tim: Yes. Yes.
Janet: It was like class period felt unorganized, and what does that really mean? And so, assessment kind of falls into that piece too, right? Like how are you starting and ending with maybe some sort of follow up or assessment in that piece? Or it could also fall into the engagement or the flexibility responsiveness, right? Like if a student is not engaged, how are you engaging them? That could be part of a formative assessment, right? And so, the assessment isn’t usually like a separate category, it’s usually kind of embedded into both of those areas.
Tim: Okay. Good. Glad to know kind of where that falls in.
Janet: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Tim: I want to circle back to the classroom management, classroom environment aspect of things, because I think a lot of people… Sorry, I’m doing a terrible job with speed around here, I think a lot of people are very nervous about evaluations, especially if their classroom management is not on point or if they have a difficult class, they’re very apprehensive about having someone come in to observe that. So, whether it is a well-behaved, well-managed class or whether it is a more difficult class, what are you looking for as far as the classroom environment or classroom management with evaluations?
Janet: Yeah. And again, not on the speed round, but I do want to add too with this is like when you are being evaluated and you know that this class period is difficult, I think that’s important to share that with your evaluator like, “I am struggling with classroom management.” And I remember one year, I had gone to our principal and was like, “Look, you need to come into my eighth period. I don’t even know what to do about it.” And he goes-
Tim: Yeah. Just please help.
Janet: … Yes. And he was like, “Well, who’s in there?” And then I started listing off names and he literally was like, “Oh Lord, you got like this trifecta of a perfect storm in there.” And I was like, “Right.” They understand that too, right?
Tim: Yes. Yes.
Janet: So, when it comes to environment and behavior, they’re looking for an environment of respect and a culture of learning. And I think those are big pieces to that. And so, you might have a few student outliers, but if the whole class is like crazy out of control, then you do need an intervention and support, right?
Tim: Right. Right.
Janet: And so, that is helpful for that, but part of that, setting up that culture of learning and environment of respect that supports best student behavior needs, it falls around the routines and procedures that you, as a teacher are implementing on a daily basis. Like I will go in and observe student teacher, and they might not be explicit like, “This is what you need to do, and then this is what you need to do.” But clearly as an observer, I can tell that they’ve set up an environment in which students know what they’re doing and when they’re doing it. So, clearly, there has been routines and procedures in place. And so, as an evaluator, I’m looking at that, right? Or I’m also, especially for art teachers, I am looking at organization of physical space, right? So, as somebody observing student teachers, that’s kind of out of their control, because it’s somebody else’s classroom.
Tim: Yeah, not their space.
Janet: Yeah. So, I typically don’t really address that much, but I will ask questions like, “If this was your room, how would you do it?” Or, “How did you feel about how students were accessing materials? Would you like that next year when you set up your own?”
Tim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Janet: I remember one time being observed and there were few kids lined up, waiting for me to address their needs, and the evaluator was like, “Is there a way that students could help themselves with whatever it is instead of lining up, waiting for you to doll out that material” or whatever. And that’s kind of really helpful feedback so that you can say, “Well, yeah, I didn’t think about that, because this is just kind of how I do things,” or whatever, right?” Yeah.
Tim: Or you can also say, “No, those are X-Acto knives and I don’t want kids reaching over each other for those.” So-
Janet: Yes, yes. And that-
Tim: … and that’s important.
Janet: … creates a safe classroom environment, see. So, yeah, evidence.
Tim: There you go. And then I also want to ask about professionalism, because I see this on every framework, every rubric and it always, when I was a new teacher, it blew my mind like, “How are you judging my professionalism when you just come visit my classroom for a little bit?” And then I realize it’s usually done through discussion and the pre-conference, post-conference type thing. But anyway, can you talk a little bit about professionalism and other responsibilities and whatever catch all might be there on the tail end of the framework.
Janet: Yeah. And I also think this is typically in your beginning goals and… When you’re finishing up your evaluation, making sure you’re providing evidence for all these things, because they’re not witnessing you calling home to a family, but that is part of your expectations and responsibilities is that you’re communicating with stakeholders, you’re communicating with the family and guardians, you are reflecting on your teaching practice, right? And so, you have that post-conference and you don’t reflect or provide any reflection on how you could have done things differently or better, if you’re like, “Nope, it was good.” They’re going to be like, “Oh, that’s not really okay.”
Janet: But also things like maintaining records, some schools have contractual expectations for that and some schools don’t, and so maintaining records could look like IEPs and 504 paperwork in a safe place. It could mean entering three points of grades or whatever it is per week, whatever. Or another example would be with the communicating with families, I used to keep a log of when I would call home or email home, that’s a good example too, because again, that’s just another piece of evidence, right?
Tim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Janet: But it also includes things like participating in the professional community, which like, what does that mean? And that is like when you’re in professional development with your school and your institute days or whatever, and they’re asking you to participate with that, to contribute to conversations if you’re in a PLC, professional learning community with your department, things like that, right? Participating in the professional community means what are you doing to better the environment of your school? And then…
Tim: Well, can I add-
Janet: … Oh, sorry, go ahead.
Tim: … something to that too?
Janet: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.
Tim: A lot of administrators are receptive to the idea of, “Hey, I’m the only art teacher.”
Janet: Oh, yeah.
Tim: And so, they will be happy to hear that you are listening to podcasts or you are connecting on Instagram, or you are doing other things just because there maybe aren’t opportunities within your school or even within your district. They like to hear that you are still connecting outside of the district with people, no matter how you do that and learning and reflecting and getting better. And so, that’s different for each admin, but a lot of things that you’re doing to better yourself, they’re receptive to hearing about those.
Janet: Yeah. And I think that kind of goes with the learning and growing that they’re looking for too as a professional. It’s not just participating in that, but also how are you taking that information and applying it to your teaching practice? I think that’s a biggie. Well, we can come back to that. So, the other piece would be professional behaviors, and so this is kind of an interesting one and not until I started working on the AOEU teacher framework, did I really dive into this a little bit deeper, but there are some great examples like how are you handling anxious situations or conflict, right? How are you talking with your colleagues and communicating with them? How are you accepting feedback? Things like that. It’s like how are you working with students? Are you being a professional? Are you being appropriate? Are you contacting the right people when students are struggling or need support? That kind of thing is a professional behavior.
Tim: Okay, excellent. And then I want to move on to just the different levels of proficiencies, a lot of times, we’ll see like on the Danielson, one, two, three, four, how do evaluators decide on those? What kinds of things are they looking for? What can you share with us about what you’re looking for when it comes to levels of proficiencies?
Janet: So, this is kind of when I was like, “Well, we’ll come back to this.” Because I thought of a good example of this that’s kind of clear-cut for the learning and growing professionally piece, right? So, if you are not engaging with professional community or learning and growing at all, like you’re not doing anything outside of school or outside of class, then you’d be like zero or one or whatever it is on the group rubric, right?
Tim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Janet: Like you’re not doing it. And then an emerging typically is like maybe are going to one professional event a year or something like that, right? Someone who’s proficient is actually taking that and applying that information, and so when I was talking about that, that’s kind of what that means. And then the next level, the highest level is kind of like when we assess our students, right? You want them to meet it, but they can go above and beyond, and to get a four on the Danielson framework, a lot of administrators will be like, “A four, there’s very few fours that are given out,” which I hate that, because it’s like, “Are you saying you won’t give me a four, because you gave out too many fours this year or something?”
Janet: But really what they’re looking for is when things are student-driven and student-centered. So, maybe you are taking what you learned from that professional experience, you’re applying it in the classroom, but also you’re integrating how students can take that ownership of it on their own and move forward with the same ideas and principles. And so, it’s always kind of that’s the piece I always look for. As art teachers, we’re typically in the proficient area, we might have some emerging in some areas of maybe our problem areas or something like that, or areas that we usually identify our weaknesses, but the thing that always drives up to that higher level is whether it’s student-centered and student-led.
Janet: So, I guess, what does that actually look like is kind of what you asked, right? So, as an evaluator, somebody coming into my classroom, I loved this method, and then I started doing it in my own practice, which is using like a scripting kind of format or annotating, and I loved that, because my evaluator then gave me the annotations afterwards or the script of what he did. And there were so many things that were happening that I actually wasn’t even fully conscious or aware of-
Tim: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.
Janet: … Yeah, because so much of our teaching is a lot of innate. We talk about that buzzing around the room and doing things like that.
Janet: Right. The B analogy. And so, we don’t always hear or see everything that’s happening, and so an observer who’s just kind of coming in and documenting what they see is really great. So, I also use this for my observations of my student teachers, and it’s basically timestamped. So, on one column, I have the time and I have what is happening. And then I usually give suggestions on the right-hand side, “Based on what I’m seeing, this is what I would suggest.” So, what I’m seeing truly is scripting of the events. There’s no judgments, there’s no assumptions, there’s no assigning any labels. So, for an example, that would be student asks this question and I would type out what this teacher said. And then three students raised hands, two students were on their phones, whatever, right? And then teacher calls on the student whose hand was not raised, student says, blah, blah, blah, right?
Janet: And so, literally, this is what’s happening. So, I wouldn’t say things like, “Students are off-task, not paying attention.” I can’t assume that, I’m just literally documenting what I see. And what I love about this too as someone who receives that feedback, a lot of times I will notice… I joke with you, Tim, when we first started doing our podcast together, I was like, “Oh, my gosh, I say this so much, and my inflections say do this all the time.” And you were like, “Don’t worry about it.” Right? And so, these kinds of scripting actually is helpful as a teacher, because you might notice things that you say a lot, right?
Janet: So, like I used to say things like, “Hey, you guys,” all the time, right? Like, “You guys this, and you guys.” And I was like, “I don’t want that in my vocabulary anymore,” after reading those feedback, and that wasn’t necessarily something my evaluator was docking me on or making a comment on it, just was a documentation of that. So, the other helpful piece of this or what the evaluator is looking for when they’re trying to place you in the rubric or the scoring, they’re looking at actual physical evidence that they see around the room. Things like learning targets projected on the board or written on the board somewhere, so that piece, and then also how are you referring to those learning targets on the board? All of those pieces kind of go into the four domains or however many domains your framework has. Is the agenda projected? Is it written down? Do you have anchor charts around the room?
Are there behavior expectations on bulletin boards or walls? Are students arranged by differentiated groupings? Materials, are they organized? Are they labeled? Are they in multiple languages? Do they have… They’re looking at all of these kinds of things. And then they’re looking basically to see what do students know? How do they know what they’re doing? How do they know when they’ve accomplished that goal, right? So, as an observer, I often will walk around and I’ll ask students questions, and I love it because I play stupid, right? I’m like, “Oh, what are you doing? What is that?” And they’ll be like, “Oh, well, we’re making a slab house out of clay.” And I’m like, “Well, what do you mean a… What does that mean?” Or, “What happens after you do this?” And I know what happens, and so if they don’t know, then I write that down so that the teacher realizes that, right?
Tim: Yep. Yep.
Janet: And so, I’m always looking for things like, what are the teacher doing and what are the students doing? I had this amazing chat with Lindsey Moss a couple of weeks ago, and I wanted to suggest this to people too, as you are preparing for your evaluations, you could literally make a chart that… So, she gave me this idea that she had gotten from somebody else where it’s like teacher does and student does. And so, if you notice that you’re spending all this time and the students are just listening, like if I’m lecturing for 10 minutes and students are not doing anything, then maybe you need to change it up a little bit. And I also like the timestamp in the annotation or scripting, because it points out to you too as the teacher like, “Oh, I actually thought I was taking five minutes to do that, but really it took me one minute or it took me 25 minutes.” And I think that’s really helpful feedback too.
Tim: Yeah. That’s an excellent point.
Janet: Okay. That was a lot. I’m sorry.
Tim: That’s okay. This whole podcast is a lot.
Tim: There’s just a lot to say. So, all right, we have gone through a lot about what evaluations are, what administrators are looking for, and I want to, I guess, focus the last part of this podcast on what teachers can do to help themselves when it comes to evaluations. So, let’s talk about sort of the preparation side of things, both what teachers need to do for themselves and what they need to do for their admin. So, let’s start with teachers, like how can, or how should teachers prepare themselves for an upcoming evaluation?
Janet: Right. So, the first thing I would do is make sure you’re familiar with the evaluation rubric or tool that is being used to evaluate you. I think that’s really important as teachers that we really understand how things connect for our classroom, right? And so, oftentimes I will compare my lesson plan or my agenda with that evaluation tool, make sure I’m incorporating areas that I might not have remembered to put in, or only if it feels authentic though, right? So, you don’t want to just like jam-pack, it’s not a dog and pony show, right?
Janet: And then I want to always have any and all visual evidence that can support that. And so, when I’m talking for my pre-conference with my evaluator… I’ve sat down where the evaluator’s like, “No, I don’t need to even talk to you about it because it doesn’t matter.” And I’ll be honest, as an observer of student teachers, they submit their lesson plans to me ahead of time, I kind of glance to make sure there’s no red flags, but I don’t dig into that, because I’d want to really see what I’m seeing, right? I don’t want to have a context necessarily, and then I go back and give a lot of feedback on that. But if you have visual evidence, I think that’s really, really important to include and to show and gather. So, that’s either for your pre-conference or your post-conference, honestly.
I also think it’s really, really important to know your students, right? So, which kids have IEPs? What does that look like? What are their needs? Which ones have 504s? What kinds of accommodations do you need to put in place? Are there any concerns or needs of students that aren’t necessarily formally identified? So, I’m pretty specific. I don’t usually say a kid’s name when I’m writing up my paperwork for my evaluator, but I will say like, “One student is struggling with intense anxiety. One student hasn’t been to class in three days,” or whatever, three weeks, whatever it is, right? And so, I think that’s really important to share.
And then how are you actually going to accommodate or work with those needs to address those students, to support them, right? Maybe they’re struggling or maybe they need extension, so you’re showing that kind of differentiation within your students. And then if you are new to being observed or you feel uncomfortable, because Tim and I, both said in the beginning that even as veteran teachers, you get nervous, and I’m like sweating and my hands are clammy, have someone come in and observe you that you do feel comfortable with, and it doesn’t have to be the same lesson, but it could be just to give you practice, right? So, just some casual practice with someone watching you and maybe taking notes. You could have specific advice that you want to ask of your colleague or somebody that you know is really good at something say, “Hey, can you come in and… I’m really struggling with classroom management, but I know you’re really good and I’ve seen that, can you come in and just point out what you notice?”
I think working with a learning support coach or instructional coach, if you have somebody like that in your school, they’re like experts in that evaluation model, and they’re also not your direct supervisor or anyone that evaluates you, and so they can look at you from an evaluative lens without feeling judged, right?
Janet: And then lastly, I would just suggest to go observe other teachers, right? The more you observe others and can look at them through the same lens of an evaluator, the more comfortable you will start to feel thinking about someone coming into your classroom.
Tim: Yeah, absolutely. And I would just add to that, whether you were asking to come into somebody else’s room or whether you’re asking someone else to come into yours, do not hesitate. People are happy to help, people are not going to judge you. It’s better for all involved if everyone in the school is teaching at the highest level they can. And so, we are supportive. Veteran teachers want to help new teachers. And so, if you ask them to come in or if you ask to come observe them, they’re happy to do that. So, please don’t feel like you’re going to be judged, don’t hesitate, just ask and it’s going to help you significantly.
Janet: Yeah. I agree.
Tim: Okay. We talked way back at the beginning about admins that may or may not know what’s going on in the art room. They may or may not be supportive of the arts. They may not know what an art room should look like or what they can expect. So, what can teachers do to prepare their admin for an evaluation? What do we tell them about coming into the art room?
Janet: So, again, typically, on those forms for the pre-conference, there might be a question that says like, “What does your classroom look like? What does student engagement mean to you?” And so, the administration wants to know what it’s going to look like in your classroom? What does learning engagement look like? And also what have you put in place based on the student’s needs, right? So, you might have a first period that’s really quiet and a second period that’s super loud, right? So, if your class is loud and easily excitable, then you can explain, “Well, therefore this lesson includes X, Y, and Z strategies to support their needs.” So, I think it’s really important to show, “I know my kids and so I might not do the is for every class, but this is what I’m doing to adjust for their needs.” I think it’s a great advocacy tool to help administration also, as much as we translate what’s happening in education into our art room, we need to also translate what’s happening in our art room back into education, right?
Janet: And so, what do the teaching strategies look like to differentiate while… I joke about, it’s like art, mostly now, I would say is typically differentiated, because there’s a lot more choice and whatever, not to go down that rabbit hole, but the choice spectrum, right? Even if you’re very teacher-directed, students have some choice usually, and so those are ways that students are differentiating, maybe by their interest or things like that. And so, you might have to say like, “While I’m not homogeneously grouping my students based on our last PDE [inaudible 00:54:13], I am doing this.” And so, kind of showing them that it’s not necessarily explicit, but implicit in how you’re teaching. I also think it’s important to share with administration or your evaluator, what students have learned so far, that will prepare them for that day, right?
Tim: Yeah, because a lot of times, we’re in the middle of a three-week project or we’ve been working on something for an extended period of time, and so, yeah, admins need that background knowledge of where you are.
Janet: Yeah. And also, it’s such an amazing advocacy tool to be like, “Look at all of these things the kids have done to get to this point, they aren’t just like magically talented and just can pull in a masterpiece out of there.” You know what? And so, the other piece that I find very valuable is where are they going to go from there? So, “This lesson is important and relevant, because this is what’s going to connect next, this is what we’re going to do next that feeds off of this lesson, and or this is how we’re connecting this learning beyond the classroom.”
Tim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Janet: So, I think the pre and post of that lesson is important to share that it’s not just some weird standalone, isolated lesson. Now, it could be, it could just be like, maybe it’s testing week and you have one class period that needs something else. So, okay, but why are you doing that, and how is it relevant and how is it meaningful to student? And then I would say the other thing that’s important to prepare administration for is specifics on what you personally are working on in your own teaching. And if you are trying something new that day, sometimes you’re like, “I learned about this new strategy and I really want to try it, and I’m not sure it’s going to work.” And you can say like, “This might not be even a new…” Like, Think-pair-share, for example, maybe you want to try it, and you could say to the administration, “I know that this is not a new strategy, but it’s new to me, and I would like to get your feedback on how it’s going, and maybe how I can make it better next time.” Right?
Janet: Or like we said before, make sure to share if you’re struggling with something or someone in the classroom, and then they just can give view from a different lens. And I think sharing with them and being open about those things allows them to also feel like you’re aware of your needs and how to make it better, right? You don’t want them to come in and be like, “Well, your classroom was crazy today.” And so, then they are stuck on that. If you say ahead of time, “My classroom is a little bit crazy and I need some support.” Then they’ll be like, “Okay, I know that she’s aware of that.” Or, “He’s aware of that, and I can look at those types.”
Tim: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. And then they’re sort of in the lens of wanting to help you rather than wanting to criticize you.
Janet: Yes. Yes.
Tim: And I think it’s difficult, especially as a new teacher to be vulnerable and say, “These are the things I’m struggling with,” but it’s incredibly helpful to do that, and your administrator is going to appreciate the awareness, as you mentioned, they’re going to appreciate the fact that you are reflecting on these things, and they’re going to appreciate the fact that you want to get better at these things. And so, as difficult as it may be to open up and say, “Hey, this is what’s hard for me right now,” it’s going to give you a better evaluation, and in the long run, it’s going to help your teaching, because you have a new set of eyes. You have an experienced teacher who is going to be able to help you reflect on what you’ve done and probably what you can do better.
And so, yeah, I would strongly encourage you to talk about those things with whoever is coming in to evaluate you. And then I guess, last thing we mentioned briefly at the beginning, but didn’t really dive in, the meetings that come along with these evaluations, so like the post-observation meeting, can you talk a little bit about what teachers can expect going in there, and maybe suggestions you would have about how to handle the feedback that you get from your evaluator?
Janet: Right. So, I would suggest you do this, right after you are observed, you can feel like overwhelmed, anxious, nervous about what kind of feedback that they’re going to give you. And so, right after, I would highly suggest if you have a few moments to jot down notes about what you were thinking about, because if you wait too long, you’re going to forget about all the nuances that you had been working through in the moment. And so, what kills me is whenever I’m observing somebody, anybody, and I say, “Well, how do you think that went?” And they’re like, “It was fine.” And I’m like, “Yeah, fine is the word…” But like, “What does that mean? What does that mean, it was good, it was fine?” There’s always room for growth, like what specific areas were really great? Which part did you nail? Which part was still a struggle? Which part do you want to continue to work on? Or what didn’t you get to today, based on the information that you gathered and then you’re going to make sure tomorrow in your lesson, you regroup and talk about or reteach that?
Janet: Those are things that oftentimes if we wait too long to jot down ideas or notes from that moment that we forget. And then before writing up your post-observation writeup, I would take your notes and then really dig deep into your lesson and be thoughtful about it. And so, that’s part of the post-observation is they usually say like, “Write up a reflection about this.” Or there might be specific questions delivered to you. And so, I can’t tell you enough, and I know, Tim that we’ve talked about this throughout all of our podcasts about how important it is to be a reflective and responsive teacher.
Tim: Yes. Yes.
Janet: And so, that is the most meaningful piece out of this that the evaluators want to see. So, during the meeting, usually you come with the write-up with the reflection, you’ve already submitted that, and then you can also upload typically some more evidence, so maybe like your agenda slides for the day, or maybe student artwork like, “Okay, so they did this.” Or maybe it was a formative assessment where they were sketching something, take a few shots of different levels of that and toss that into the evidence form. And so, then during the meeting, you want to take time and really listen to what the evaluator has to say, I would highly encourage you always to have paper and pen to take notes. I think that shows that you are wanting that feedback and that you’re interested in what they have to say and you value that. And then sometimes we can be broached with some language that doesn’t make us feel great or feel comfortable in the moment. So, I think it’s best to not respond in the moment with any charged feelings.
Tim: Do not get defensive like, “Hey, I didn’t notice this, but I did this, but I did that.” Just don’t do it. Just be quiet and discuss later.
Tim: Take the chance to reflect. But anyway, go on.
Janet: Yeah. Well, no, like you said, maybe you could say, “That’s interesting.” Or, “That’s curious.” Or, “Well, let me think about that.” And then just jot it down as a note, and then you can go back and ask follow up questions of your evaluator, right?
Tim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Janet: And like I said, they can’t see everything that’s occurred throughout that class period, so make sure you provide evidence from different domains. And then usually at the end of the post-conference, there’s some sort of form that you need to sign. And this also is very intimidating for most teachers, especially if you don’t agree with their score, right? And so, the form that you sign typically, again, I can’t say this for certain, this has been my experiences, it’s an acknowledgement that you had the conference and received feedback, and the rationale for the score that you received. Now, some observations, you don’t get a score. I think in my previous school, we didn’t actually get like a rating right then and there, and it wasn’t until the end of the semester, end of the year, right?
Janet: But I just want to reiterate that that’s not an agreement, you’re not signing that to say, “I agree with these rationale or the scores or the feedback.” You’re just saying that, “We did do this process.”
Tim: Yep. And I’ll just reiterate, if you have a terrible principal trying to get you to sign blank forms, you don’t have to do that. You don’t have to sign.
Janet: Yes. And I do want to say that too, in contentious situations, like from the very beginning, like I said, this is not a gotcha moment or it should be, but we should do a podcast and that’s like real talk with Tim And Janet, that would be a disaster, but I do want to point out that sometimes the situations are not great and maybe the principal is out to get you, right?
So you just need to make sure you know your resources at that point. So, if you have a union, maybe you can have a union rep come in and sit with you during your evaluation. Maybe you can have someone else come and observe at the same time and give feedback at the same time, so then you have other evidence that supports or whatever that looks like, just know that again, not every situation is, like I said, rainbows and roses, right?
Tim: Yeah, absolutely.
Tim: All right, Janet, we’ve gone over an hour.
Janet: Oh, my gosh.
Tim: We should probably wrap things up here. Just any final advice for people as they’re thinking about evaluations?
Janet: So, again, I’ll just kind of reiterate to be yourself, do the best you can and be reflective. And ultimately, we need to think about feedback as a gift, like you said, let’s not be defensive about it, we’re looking for that feedback. We tell our students this when we’re assessing them, and so we need to take that from our own lens too. It’s just going to help us improve and give us a different perspective. So, I think ultimately, the whole evaluation cycle or process is kind of a gift to our teaching practice.
Tim: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great way to frame it, great way to think about it. The only thing I would add is don’t feel like you have to be perfect. I’ve said that a couple of times throughout the show, but you don’t have to have the perfect lesson, you don’t have to have the dog and pony show as you called it. Just do what you are regularly doing in your classroom, so your evaluator has a good idea of what happens in your classroom. And then if you are doing what you normally do, the feedback that you get on that is going to be so much more meaningful than you’re trying to put on the perfect lesson or put on the perfect show, just try and be reflective of what’s actually happening in your classroom and everything that comes from that is going to be, like you said, much more helpful to your teaching practice. So, all right, Janet, thank you so much for this discussion. It’s been wonderful and we’ll have to do it again in a month or so.
Janet: Sounds great. Thanks so much.
Tim: All right. I think that is our first episode that has gone over an hour. So, we always talk a lot, but I hope all of it was worthwhile. And I think there are couple of points that we hit a lot, but just to summarize, evaluation are not something you need to be scared of, and there are opportunities for you to learn. There are opportunities for you to grow, to get feedback and to become better as a teacher, which is what we are all trying to do.
Art Ed Radio is produced by The Art of Education University with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Thank you for listening. Thank you for making it through this entire episode with us. And we’ll talk to you next week.
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.