Friday, March 16, 2012

When Job-Embedded PD Failed...Sort Of

A discussion about job-embedded professional development for teachers and a classroom evaluation experience that I’d rather forget

It’s Jared Heath here, and I can’t believe we haven’t talked about classroom evaluations yet. In a month that focuses on job-embedded professional development for teachers, classroom observations perhaps should have been the first thing to discuss.

Deia Sanders’s blog post this week made me think a lot about classroom evaluations. Classroom evaluations are incredibly helpful—even though I found my own evaluations less than comfortable (as you’re about to read), there was always something to take away.

These days a lot of staff development coaches and other leaders have electronic walkthrough tools like Observation 360. Some schools even use fancy cameras like thereNow to do remote evals with video examples.

Me, I didn’t have that. I had a senior staff member and a piece of paper.

My Classroom Evaluation Experience
job-embedded professional development for teachers with henry fonda

With a frame as slight as Henry Fonda’s and a manner perhaps as unassuming as Michael Gough, my staff development director would sit in the back of the room. I don’t even need to close my eyes to see his round glasses standing out in contrast to the deep creases of his 80-year-old face. Mr. “Fonda-Gough” seemed like an intelligently pleasant grandfather. Not like my grandfather, who was a physicist for Boeing and tougher than John Wayne. No, this guy was probably the kind of grandpa that would put you on his knee and slip you candy when your mom isn’t looking.

I was terrified every time he walked through the door. My students knew it.

job-embedded professional development for teachers with henry fondaIt wasn’t that I didn’t like looking into the mirror, so to speak. In fact, I would have enjoyed a mirror or a video or something to show what my lesson actually looked like. Even though I knew exactly what it looked like. There are several words to call those observed teaching sessions, most of which are vulgar and none of which I am willing to repeat here.

That poor evaluation form was covered in comments. Mr. Fonda-Gough would bend sentences around corners and bury them in every space he could find. He had a gentleman’s handwriting, one that seemed heavily influenced, though not fully perfected, by his wife’s impeccable penmanship.

After the lesson, he would stand six inches away and squint through his glasses at me. I would always expect an aged voice full of whispers when he spoke, but apparently his voice never aged past his thirty-third birthday. Six inches away so that he could see and with a strong voice that rattled my lungs, he would deliver his assessment. Upon finishing, he would hand me the sheet full of gentleman handwriting, give me a well-practiced smile and “good job,” and leave. That’s when I could breathe again.

But Enough about Me…What About You?

Of course Mr. Fonda-Gough had the best of intentions, and he did the best that could with the tools that we had. But after reading Deia Sanders’s post, I couldn’t help but wish that I had had more actionable strategies. I’m not sure that we needed the fun technology—but maybe it would have been a blessing.

How do classroom evaluations go for you? Have you found a more successful method? What do you really want out of job-embedded professional development for teachers (whether you’re a teacher or an admin)?

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