The time has come for my second teacher evaluation of the year. Despite the fact that I stand in front of nearly a hundred teen-agers every day, the thought of one administrator sitting in the back of the room makes me nervous. Many of my colleagues and friends echo the same feelings. Don’t get me wrong. I think it is important to be evaluated, to be expected to bring my “A” game, to have someone keep tabs on what I am doing. But the observation form is almost laughable in its simplicity. A current seating chart? Check. What is the objective of the day? Check. What type of technology are you incorporating into your lesson? Checkity check.
But how could someone observing one period of one class possibly understand what l do all day, and all year, and perhaps, (when I am in an optimistic mood and all the stars align just so), what lessons I teach that last long into the future? I don’t blame the admins for trying, but there is no way to put into words (or boxes), the magic I make each day and the connections I create.
How could they know about the girl who was suspended from school for a cafeteria fight, never turned in assignments, begged me all second quarter for extra credit to bring up her F, and (because I knew she could do it) worked her tail off to bring the grade up herself when I said no. She currently has an A and is writing beautiful poetry. Or how can they learn about the kid whose mom was frustrated that he got a C+, but when I explained that her son liked to brag about not studying and goofed around in class, and I advised that he could work a little harder, he took it to heart? Two quarters later, he’s sporting an A+. Fifty minutes in my class can show my boss that I can answer essential questions, create a variety of assessments, and teach the material, but it is not enough time to explain how I raise the bar and expect the best out of each student in my room.
Among all the gradebook victories, showing up as a caring human is just as important. I’ve hugged a sobbing student who broke down in the middle of the class talking about her recently deceased uncle, counseled a boy who even in April has only managed to narrow down his college choice to FIVE schools, prayed with a girl whose parents have split up, consoled a boy whose Ivy League dreams did not come true, and negotiated the rough waters of literature and life with many others. Again, there are no boxes for the administrator to check. Human relationship are tricky at best, and high school relationships especially. These students and I have seen each other at our best and worst. Imagine motivating a student on the first day back from Christmas break, or when the thermometer hits 70 and she is dreaming of being anywhere but here. The world we live in does not help. My classroom is filled with snapchats and mean tweets, Promposals and break-ups. Somehow in the midst of this chaos, I am supposed to connect, cajole, coddle and create. I love the challenge, and on most days I make it all work, but there is no rubric for these moments that matter.
So sure, come to evaluate my teaching. But don’t expect to get the whole story while you are checking off the boxes. What you can’t see is way more important than what you can: The trust built over months and months of working hard together, the comfort created when I read and evaluate what they write, the lessons they receive when I challenge them to give a little more effort than they’d like. What we do matters, in the moment and for their future. And no matter who is watching, I give it my all.