I get evaluated this year. Yay! (Why isn’t there an icon for sarcasm?)
I really don’t mind. Evaluations fall into one of two categories depending on the contract you’re working under. The evaluation is either planned-formal or surprise. The planned-formal requires the administrator to meet with you beforehand and you both set a date for the evaluation. You tell the administrator what you’re objective is and what he/she should be looking for. It’s basically a dog and pony show.
In contrast, the surprise evaluations are like answering the door on a Saturday you decided to sleep in and wear jammies until noon – except when you answer the door you have unexpected visitors – Surprise! One day you’re teaching and all of a sudden the principal walks in with a clipboard. Of course, being the wonderful teacher that I am, I’m always in the middle of a fantastic lesson. (Where is that sarcasm icon?)
Under my current contract I will be putting on the dog and pony show, so no big deal. No evaluation now or ever in my future will top the first evaluation I ever had. It still makes me laugh. I wrote it down in detail after it happened, and present it now for your amusement.
My evaluation was scheduled for a class period when I was working with two fourth grade students in the Resource Room.
Mr. Squirmy our principal (yes, of course I changed his name, but his real name was just as goofy sounding) arrived before the students and sat at the back of my room. He was in his early 60’s, had white hair and a white mustache, was of medium height, and carried about 100 extra pounds. When Paul and Sarah walked in, they immediately noticed the visitor. Paul more than noticed. When he saw the principal, his eyes widened and he gasped. Paul’s gasp came out like a long last draw of air from a dying man! He froze in the doorway, and I could see he was desperately searching his memory for what he had done to incur a visit from the principal.
“Come on in guys,” I said. “Mr. Squirmy is just going to watch class today.” Paul remained planted at the door, eyes wide, mouth open. “It’s OK guys,” I reassured them, “Just come sit down.” Sarah took Paul’s hand and pulled him over to the two desks in front. Even though Paul was walking to the desk, he never took his eyes off the principal.
We began every math class by running through a routine involving calendar, temperature, money, and skip counting. The kids knew the drill well, and I quickly led them through the review. Paul had a hard time staying focused, though. He kept turning and looking back at the principal. It didn’t help that the principal began writing things down. It suddenly occurred to me that Paul thought the principal was assessing him.
“Paul,” I explained, “Mr. Squirmy is here to watch me teach you. He’s not writing down things about you. He’s checking to see if I’m teaching you guys the right way. He’s writing down things I do to make sure I’m being a good teacher.” This took a minute to sink in to Paul’s brain. It had never occurred to him that teachers get graded too. We continued our review, but I could tell that Paul was still trying to process the idea that the principal was watching me and not him.
Paul eventually stopped turning around and settled into the review. We all forgot about the elephant in the room and concentrated on skip counting until we heard a strange sound. Watching someone working with just two students can apparently get pretty boring. We had just begun skip counting by sevens when we heard the low rumble of someone snoring. I looked to the back of the room and noticed Mr. Squirmy’s head was slumped down on his chest. With each intake of air, his head and shoulders would rise, and we heard a low motor sound from the back of his throat. As he exhaled, the sound changed to a higher whizzing from the front of his nose. They didn’t teach us about this in teacher’s college, I thought.
Both Paul and Sarah were awestruck by the idea of the principal sleeping at the back of the room during their math class. They kept turning around as they counted, looking at the sleeping walrus, and then pivoting back to me, searching for the correct response to it all.
“Seven, fourteen,” they chanted looking back, “twenty-one, twenty-eight” looking at me, “Thirty-five, forty-two,” looking back, “Forty-nine, fifty-six,” looking at me.
I slowly put my finger up to my lips and signaled, “Shhhhh.” They understood shushing and being quiet. They immediately switched to a whisper.
“Sixty-three, seventy,” they hissed. We continued skip counting eights and nines in whispers. The kids were eventually assured that their softer voices would not wake the giant, and they stopped looking back every second or third count. We worked the entire math lesson in whispers. It was odd how the whispering kept them both more focused than usual.
About thirty minutes into the class the rhythmic buzzing from the back abruptly changed to several small snorts. I glanced back and noticed the principal suddenly sitting up, searching around, and eventually looking at me. I discretely ignored him and continued working with the kids, but changed my whispering to a normal voice. Without even acknowledging the change, both Paul and Sarah began speaking in normal tones.
I finished the math lesson and gave both kids the problems they were to take home to work on their own. Paul was particularly pleased that no trouble or scolding had come his way. “See you tomorrow,” I called as they walked to the door. Paul, however, paused. He had important business to handle first. He turned, bravely walked to the back of the room, and stood stiffly in front of the principal.
“I think Mrs. Jones is a good teacher, and you should give her at least a B,” he fearlessly declared. The principal looked at me. I tilted my head and smiled smugly back at him. Paul, having done his duty, turned and strode out of the room.
No other words were exchanged between the principal and me. He gathered his papers, mumbled something about having a lot of other evaluations to get to, and left the room.
A week later I received my written appraisal. Paul wanted to know what grade I got, and I was happy to tell him I got an A.