Education Opinion

Drive-by Observations and Other Accountability Measures

By Starr Sackstein — October 04, 2016 3 min read
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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.