Opinion
Education Opinion

Drive-by Observations and Other Accountability Measures

By Starr Sackstein — October 04, 2016 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

You’re teaching your class, not unlike any normal day.

It’s well into the period, in fact and you’ve abandonned the front of the room as the mini-lesson has passed and now you’re wandering purposefully about, clarifying for students and managing the engagement of the room to ensure that your oversized-class is all on task.

As you kneel down to review a student’s work and answer questions, you notice your administrator in the doorway, unannounced and with a notebook. Not 100% sure what the administrator wants, you stop what your doing to ask if something is pressing they need you for only to be waved off.

You go back to what you’re doing, a little uncertain as to what they are doing, but you can’t help but feel his/her presence until he/she leaves five to seven minutes later.

Your students feel the presence too. “Am I in trouble?” they wonder. One or two of them may even look at you and ask questions you can’t answer.

The period bell rings and you look at the board wondering, “Did I clearly write my agenda with an aim, and objectives? Was it clear what was happening in the space? Did I do anything wrong?”

Whatever you may be wondering, it may be best to go right to source.

In our high stakes educational world, students aren’t the only ones with anxiety about being judged. Teachers, too, often worry that what they are doing isn’t going to pay off.

Whether it’s concern about testing measures and the impact of random data on teacher effectiveness or observations, educators often wonder how they measure up... for real.

If we just assess students without telling them the purpose and more importantly giving feedback on what we see, then we’d be committing a great injustice to our students.

We often talk about actionable feedback to move progress, and consider this best practice as educators...

Which begs the question, why would it be any different for teachers?

When this happened recently, I promptely emailed my supervisor and asked what he was looking for and if he saw it and was quite forthcoming when I did. Just wish I would have known it was coming, not because it would have changed what I was doing, instead it would have taken the anxiety of the uncertainty out of it.

Although we can be confident in our practice, it’s sometimes hard to gauge what people see, so it is essential to communicate these things as clearly and as often as possible.

If I had it my way, I’d want the feedback process to look like this:


  • First ask me what I’m working on and if I have particular goals I’ve set with a class.
  • Ask if I need help with anything, so you know what to look for.
  • Don’t tell me exactly when you’re coming, but give me a window, so I’m not confused.
  • When you come, look for something specific and be clear about it ahead of time.
  • Once you’ve visited, either give me immediate verbal feedback before you leave or send me a quick note at your earliest convenience about what you saw and if it aligned with what we talked about. Voxer is great for this too. Shoot me a quick voice message or text, if that is easier.
  • If critical feedback needs to be offered, call me in. Talk to me about it. Tell me what I’m doing right first and then offer solid suggestions (actionable feedback) on how I can improve next time.
  • Give me a chance to practice and come back again...then repeat the above process before new goals are made.

Since most teachers are eager to improve for their students and themselves, we must be treated the same way we are expected to treat our students, with respect and dignity.

What is the best way to provide feedback for educators and based on what? Should admin be observed in the same way? What would that look like? Please share

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP
Education Massachusetts National Guard to Help With Busing Students to School
250 guard personnel will be available to serve as drivers of school transport vans, as districts nationwide struggle to hire enough drivers.
1 min read
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass. Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, activated the state's National Guard to help with busing students to school as districts across the country struggle to hire enough drivers.
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass.
Michael Dwyer/AP