Answers ( 2 )

  1. It’s important to remember that the way we show respect and appreciation for great professionals is to honor their work. We do this by being present in their classrooms while they are doing it, observing carefully, and offering thoughtful feedback to them. Strong teachers often became good at their work because they are reflective and intentional. As such, most of them really do want more than, “Great job! Keep it up.” In fact, feedback like that really frustrates some. It can indicate either that the evaluator didn’t work very hard to inspect/think about the practice observed to identify its strengths and possible areas for improvement OR that the evaluator doesn’t have enough expertise to offer the strong teacher. Either of those conclusions can be demoralizing to a strong performer. The way to support the best teachers is to really engage in analysis of what they do well, and to ask questions/offer food for thought to them about the particular classroom segment observed. What you bring to them is something they cannot have—another set of eyes so they can see themselves AND to closely see and eavesdrop on how students are responding to the instruction. We know when we are teaching that it is hard to know what is happening with all students all the time. An observer can offer a window into how students talked in small groups, how a student’s body language looked when the teacher turned away to help another student, who might have been left out when choosing partners, what individuals said or did as they began a task, or simply to document how something looked/felt/sounded from the perspective of the recipient of the teacher’s instruction. Often when we give strong teachers feedback, we script the performance, rate a lot of things Effective or Highly Effective, and then write a comment that praises rapport with students, engagement, lesson design, etc. It’s great to do this, but we kick the feedback up a notch, when we embed some questions right in the script or thoughtfully challenge the teacher to consider how to do something “even better”. Strong performers like the idea of “even better.” They aren’t threatened by getting stronger. It excites them. Recognizing this, consider adding to your own toolbox of things to offer those performers. This can be a few provocative articles about increasing the quality of classroom dialogue, adding more individual accountability into each lesson, restructuring time to take advantage of primacy/regency effects in a MS/HS period, adding greater student independence into a task, etc. If you don’t feel very competent in these areas, set some meetings with content experts or instructional coaches to talk to you about priorities for making strong performance even stronger. Get their recommendations on TedTalks, video clips, protocols, books, or articles to offer teachers who are ready for next steps. Also keep a list of great things you’ve seen strong teachers do that you can “cross-pollinate” from staff member to staff member as you are leaving feedback. They can’t always get out to watch one another, and teachers are notoriously bad about bragging about their own strengths, so you can be the one who carries those great practices that work well from classroom to classroom as you offer feedback (without mentioning names OR by connecting two strong staff members for a discussion with you after school or on prep to talk about a practice they are each working to hone). A

  2. I often equate giving feedback to a strong teacher with providing differentiated instruction to your high achieving students. If a teacher is excellent, it may be tempting to skip them in the evaluation cycle, knowing that things are fine, and instead visit those who are struggling. But just as a classroom teacher must provide higher level engagement to those students who excel, evaluators may wish to provide higher level opportunities to highly effective staff. One example of this may be asking a highly effective teacher to lead an action research project for your school, thus providing them with professional leadership opportunities. For feedback on actual teaching, highly effective teachers deserve to know specifically what they are doing well so they can continue, as well as specific areas upon which they can improve. Instead of, “great lesson”, an evaluator may say, “Five examples of modifying instruction based upon checks for understanding were observed”. This correlates with collecting strong evidence in scripting, but also gives a specific talking point for a follow up conference.

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