Saturday, July 12, 2014

Most principals worry about the teacher evaluation process… you are not alone!

The Big Question???  How do you decrease stress surrounding teacher evaluations?  Easy Answer… Increase trust!

The most valuable thing principals can do to support the evaluation process is increase trust! 

As I have stated in a previous posts:  I know… the “evaluation process” does have some negative tones due to the political uncertainties regarding the process.  We should change the name!  Let’s call it the “professional growth process.”  Seems a bit more positive and reflective.  For the purposes of this post and future posts, it will be referred to as the professional growth process.

Developing trusting relationships with teachers, while creating shared leadership opportunities, should be the focus for every administrator and will simultaneously decrease stress surrounding the professional growth process.  Relationship building and fostering shared leadership opportunities promotes a sense of community and cooperation in schools.  Teachers have many expectations and responsibilities and it is the principal’s job to support and encourage continues improvement through the professional growth process, without making it seem like “it’s one more thing” that they are responsible to manage within their day.  Building trust surrounding the professional growth process is key!

What can principals do to foster trust within their building and surrounding the professional growth process? 

1. Build genuine relationships.

-          Demonstrate an awareness of personal details within your entire faculty.  Know and care about them as people with lives outside of school. 
-          Express a positive outlook and enthusiasm of support for teachers.  It isn’t what you say… it’s how you say it that motivates staff to improve and continually to develop a growth mindset. 
-          Be available and visible, visiting classroom frequently during non-observation times.
-          Create a climate where staff members feel comfortable expressing concerns regarding curriculum, instruction, and building operations. 
-          Create a climate that demonstrates that every job is important and each person needs recognition and respect. 
-          Find humor in daily routines and help everyone understand that we choose our attitudes.  

2. Create a strong working relationship with teachers built on trust and honesty.

-          Be honest during the professional growth process.  Tell teachers what you are looking for and provide suggestions for improvement.  Don’t tell teachers that everything was great if you are still looking for specific areas of instructional/classroom management improvement or increased student engagement, parent communication, etc.
-          Provide specific and timely feedback after formal and informal observations.
-          Demonstrate active listening of teacher concerns and provide ideas that will support teacher and student growth.  Listen and survey teachers regarding building initiatives.  Staff buy in is key to creating a successful and collaborative culture. 
-          Understand that a single classroom observations (one way or another) does not provide the entire picture and multiple visits during the year are necessary.
-          Support teachers during sensitive meetings.  Always bring conversation back to what is best for the child.  If a teacher is wrong or upsetting a parent then I will state the following:
o   I know (teacher) really cares about your child and that is why emotions are high right now, let’s take a couple of minutes to put things into perspective. At this time I will restate concerns and provide some solutions.
o   What (teacher) is trying to say… state this and then model an appropriate response.
o   I can tell that you (parent) are upset right now and don’t agree with (teacher)… let’s take a day or two to think it over.  This will give time for the principal to collaborate with teacher regarding an appropriate response to parent and support for student. 
If teacher is wrong, or lacks relationship building skills with parents or students, then those are conversations that need to take place with individual teachers in a confidential manner and not in front of parent. 
-          Direct parents back to the teacher to resolve concerns before you step in.  Parents tend to contact the principal before teachers even know that there is a problem or concern.   Principals should give teachers the chance to collaborate with parent before becoming involved. 
-          Support teachers who are struggling at their profession.  Counsel them to improve and be honest about the professional growth process.  In extreme cases, you might need to counsel an educator into a different career and this will only be successful if you have a positive relationship with that person which is built on trust. 
-          Never talk about another teacher’s effectiveness ratings.  It is appropriate to give accolade regarding positive staff performance but principals should never talk of teacher effectiveness… a big reason why I advocate for eliminating the highly effective rating. 
-          Don’t rescue teachers, give them encouragement and support to be successful.  They will thank you for the reassurance and trust. 

3. Provide opportunities for professional growth. 

-          Provide sustained professional development opportunities that are meaningful and relevant to current trends in education. 
-          Provide professional development at a reasonable pace, not to overwhelm but to provide direction and excitement for professional growth. 
-          Increase targeted and sustained professional development activities during staff meetings.
-          Support and differentiate teacher goals and professional growth through instructional conferencing - reviewing environment, instruction, planning, and professionalism.  No need to have school wide professional development on communicating with parents if only a couple of teachers are in need of support.

4.  Create a culture of shared leadership.

-          Provide opportunities for teacher leadership through committees, leading student groups, building management decisions, creating surveys, book studies, sharing on twitter and/or blogging, professional development presentations, etc.  This will increases accountability and a sense of ownership within building decisions and enhances growth as a building.
-          Understand that your faculty has exceptional skills to offer.  Focus on shared, continuous improvement, promoting cooperation and cohesion within the school.  Allow your staff to provide professional development during staff meetings, building on their strengths!
-          Allow your staff to take the responsibility of building trust within grade level groups and developing each Professional Learning Community member’s self-awareness about the things that are most relevant to the building mission and vision. 

5.  Show competency and demonstrate knowledge. 

-          Show competency and demonstrate knowledge of building management, curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices that are congruent with district and state mandates.  Create a plan of how to manage state, local, and building operational needs while recognizing change is inevitable, embracing it at every opportunity.
-          Ask a few simple question before bringing new initiatives to the staff:  How is this going to benefit students?  How is this going benefit the building climate?  Is it necessary to enhance student or staff success?  Did I survey the appropriate stakeholders before moving forward? 
-          Demonstrate consistency and accountability by addressing needs of the current situation.  Decrease unknowns surrounding building management, calendar, behavior management, PTO activities, district initiatives, etc.
-          Provide a supportive and safe environment conducive to learning that provides support for student with academic and behavioral needs.
-          Understand and provide direction regarding the evaluation tool and district/state process. 

This post is more of a reflection on how I want to operate as a building principal, decreasing anxiety around the professional growth process.  I know, seems overwhelming!  Good thing, we are all in this together for the betterment of students.   Professional growth process should be a positive experience and the umbrella to everything we accomplish during the school year.  We should use it to improve our instructional practices and professional growth, with our number one focus being the core: Student Learning.  I want the professional growth process to support educators and not be the cause for stress, and the best way to accomplish that is by increasing trust!   

The increased teacher evaluation attention seems overwhelming!  Something to consider:  educators usually have long careers with plenty of time for sustained growth.  We should have a strategic plan that changes with the ever-changing educational landscape throughout our careers. 

Enjoy relaxing, learning, and reflecting over the summer!



  1. Great post Keith. As we head back to school next month, you remind us of some great places to start with our teachers and entire staff.

    Thanks for sharing!


    1. Craig, Thanks for reading and the encouragement! I always appreciate the support. Have a great week!

  2. Keith,

    Excellent synthesis of our roles as educators. Investing in people is not only the most important thing we do, it's what sustains us daily. Thanks for sharing such thought-provoking posts. It makes a difference!

    ~ Dennis

    1. Dennis,
      Thanks for reading. Just trying to figure this out together. I appreciate the support.

  3. It always comes back to relationships, doesn't it? Congratulations on fostering a growth mindset within your staff.

  4. Wow, you really packed a lot in here Keith! And I mean that is a great thing! I love the practicality of your advice but more than anything I like that you always bring it back to relationships and what is best for kids! Well done!

    1. Thanks for reading and the support! It is always about relationships and doing things that are in the best interest of our students. Have a great week!