Tips to Survive a Professional Evaluation

ELA HomeworkThis one is for my colleagues who are just starting out and maybe a little (or a lot) nervous about being evaluated. Don’t worry, you get used to it. Here are a few tips from my journey. Most teachers fall to pieces when it comes to their periodic evaluation. As a required part of this process, the principal usually comes in formally to observe a lesson. I have asked veteran teachers of more than 30 years if this makes them nervous and they have answered, “Yes, I go to pieces.” The reasons are pretty obvious but unless you’ve been observed for an evaluation you may not realize why it is one of the most nerve-wracking tests you face as a teacher. You could be an excellent teacher and still have a bad observation. It happens and you should do all you can to make sure it does not. There is also a good chance the evaluation will go well. As long as you plan little by little before the lesson and then “show them you came to play” (in a professional sports sense) in the actual lesson, you can be victorious and show your principal, as well as the district, that you have a purpose and a calling to do this that makes you worth your salt.

In preparing for my evaluation I found myself re-discovering why I got into teaching. At 27 years of age as a graduate student in language and rhetoric, I wanted to share my fascination with grammar and literature. I wanted to remove many mysteries that hold kids back and show them concrete ways of communicating better. I believed at that time that was the best way I could make my contribution to the lives of my students. Just before getting my first real public school teaching job, I worked for several months as part of my internship at Cerritos College. I worked in the writing center with adults. I would sit with them and help them discover their own errors on their basic college essays. One thing I saw again and again was “subject/verb agreement” errors. I am fixing to give my observation/evaluation lesson now, almost 15 years later on that very subject. That’s powerful to me. I have a lot to offer my kids in this lesson. In many ways, this was my first step into teaching with vision. I am seasoned in teaching this standard.

I look forward to showing my evaluator I came to play, and not just to sit on the bench having no real effect. In my opinion, many people in the world are that way. I hope to never be guilty of that. I have always been one to step up to a challenge. I think of the evaluation process as a chance to step up to the plate and knock the baseball out of the park. Like Carolyn Messner told me so many years ago in a speech class, you can’t get rid of the butterflies, but you can get them flying in formation. I don’t ever want to forget the reasons I went into teaching. I want to make the abstract concrete for kids. Put me in coach, I’m ready to play. That is the fuel for my dynamite lesson plan. What do you think? Are you up for the same challenge? If so, go for it. I wish you strength!


Having been a public school teacher since 1997, I've gained valuable classroom experience. Sometimes a great tool is a dynamite lesson plan. These posts are from a real teaching journey. I hope they inspire you. Thanks for reading!

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