The Learning Curve

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 04 2012

Evaluating Transitions and Performance.

I feel like I’m always beginning an entry with “It’s been a long time…” so without belaboring the point of my absence, I’ll just say it’s nice to check in.

This entry marks the first entry of my 1st year at a new school. Last year’s adventures at my placement school in New Orleans East are chronicled with much dramatic aplomb previous to this, so have at it if you’re new here.

I’m not one for cohesiveness or theme – if you know me at all, you know scattershot rules the roost in my writing – so I’m not going to go so far as to declare a new methodology when it comes to posting here. I’m not so much deliberately avoiding the darkness of the previous posts as I am separating Year 1 from Year 2 out of necessity. It is so easy to feel bogged down in problems that seem so large when they are staring you in the face and so small in the rearview mirror, that sometimes, when glancing over a previous entry, I feel more gloomy than necessary when looking back.

Frankly, there’s no cause for that kind of despairing. I’m happy where I am and happy in education. More importantly, maybe, I am fulfilled where I am, which is just a big f-cking deal when I think about who and where I was 12 months, 9 months, 6 months ago.

Over the past couple of days, I have been glancing at a performance rubric and grading myself accordingly. I am preparing for my beginning of the year conversation with my principal and accompanying evaluation. Rating myself tends to result in me seeing the worst and never the best, so I’m curious to see which scores he agrees with and which scores he doesn’t, and why. I have very little trouble highlighting my deficits and seemingly the world’s biggest blind spots when it comes to noticing my successes (this is consistently my feedback in work environments, at least). It’s always nice to get another perspective.

One of the key tenets of the professional development program at my school is to “celebrate successes and failures.” As a part of our performance evaluations, we must re-read the rubric for high-quality teaching in my network and grade ourselves against it. I’m not sure how accurate my own impression of my teaching practices are, but on a scale of 1-5 (3 being approaching meeting expectations, 4 being meeting and 5 being exceeding), I consistently averaged in the high 2s (2.8+) and low 3s of each category.

It’s so hard to think objectively about my ability to adapt to new and tough situations when I find so little I excel at naturally. But the other part of the eval is a big boost – it’s a fire under my ass, to be frank. There are things I’m just meh at right now (“3″) that I hope to be steadily demonstrating by mid-year. One of the things I knew when taking this new job was that it was going to push me to my limits and beyond, and here is where I’d discover if I had landed upon the right profession. I want so badly to be a good teacher, let alone one day graduate into greatness, but I know there are still so many elements I need to hone to get there. Looking at the various elements of the performance rubric has shown me in a stark light just how much more I could add to my day. Just when I thought I was doing as much as I could handle, all of these ideas poured into me about what I could be doing so much better. And that’s a kick in the pants, yes, but it’s also fuel. It’s what I need to go from complacently conveying information to teaching with a passion and a plan.

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