“Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” With those words, the servant who doubled his talents was greeted by the master of the household. Don’t we all long to hear those words said about us? We may not admit it, but encouragement for a job well done feels really good. We may be shy or embarrassed when we receive kind words, but when they are given genuinely, such words give us the energy and goodwill to do our work and do it well.
Last week, I had the privilege of participating in a panel discussion at the spring OCSAA meeting in Uxbridge on the topic of teacher assessment and evaluation. Each of the participants on the panel made their case about how teacher assessment and evaluation played a role in a school’s overall learning culture. I was particularly impressed by the comments made by my colleague Christy Bloemendal, a VP at Hamilton District Christian High School. She talked about investment in teachers, both in time and resources, and the importance of teacher voice in the ongoing shaping of any school’s teacher assessment and evaluation processes. All the panelists agreed that teacher assessment and evaluation was important for growth, but what it looks like needs to be re-imagined and re-articulated. For me, the most important take away was the belief that teachers’ success and thriving must be the goal of any system. Filling out the paperwork may be somewhat important, but it pales in importance to developing a trust relationship and encouraging the good work of teachers so that they serve their students well.
In a healthy workplace, it is important to know where you stand, what your school’s mission is, and that you are a valued member of the community. Using an assessment and evaluation tool to “weed out” struggling teachers is less than productive. It is damaging to the overall culture of the school. Being intentional about teacher assessment and evaluation is key. Schools need to develop a system that is manageable for the leader and people-focused rather than paper-focused. I think we serve our staff best when focusing our time and energy on a formative assessment and not simply a summative report.
As we learn together how to give feedback (I like, I wonder, I suggest) through various means, protocols and voices, I do wonder if we need to continue talking about how to inspire educators to move forward, take risks, and continue to learn in really healthy ways. I also wonder if mentoring, sharing work with colleagues through Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), investing in professional learning, and cultivating teacher leadership would be the way forward.
Let’s begin a new conversation about this practice and approach it with creativity and teacher voice to blow up structures that are less helpful and find something that works for our unique sets of staff/individuals. Let’s imagine something that is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Empowering teacher voice could be seen by leaders as healthy risk-taking. It could also create a system where failure is re-envisioned as a path toward learning.