February 5, 2008
What is the best way to find out what truly takes place in each classroom? Recently, many of the Park City High School teachers have been observed by their colleagues and administrators. Is this an accurate way to find out what’s happening in the classroom?
I don’t believe so.
Naturally, students and teachers are on their best behavior when being observed. I even had one teacher say prior to an observation by the vice principle that she "expected us all to be attentive and well-behaved" for her spruced up Power Point presentation.
Doesn’t that defeat the purpose? Consequently, for the duration of class we all sat like little angels and watched her presentation as if it was a scene out of Pleasantville High. However, as soon as the observer left, the class returned to its natural state of disorganization.
I have also seen the presence of an observer work the opposite effect. One of my most entertaining classes in which the teacher generally walks up and down the rows of desks telling
elaborate stories and drawing hilarious pictures on the board to help us remember various facts transformed into a generic note-taking session in the presence of an observer. Either way, the presence of an observer does not provide an accurate depiction of the classroom in most cases.
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Of course, productivity skyrockets when one knows he or she is being monitored. In fact, this phenomenon even has a name, the Hawthorne effect.
If the school wants clear picture of what takes place in the class rooms on a given day, a survey would be the most accurate way to attain this information. Additionally, the surveys should be teacher-specific.
I received one survey this year that asked me questions about the faculty as a whole and my teachers’ overall performance. This is not a fair way to judge individual teachers. The teacher that works hard, rereads the material every time he or she teaches it, and makes up new tests every year should not have their ratings dragged down by the teacher that has been handing out the same indecipherable, boring packets for years.
Hypothetically, if I had a teacher I adored who was extremely effective and another whom I learned nothing from and felt like was a waste of time, whom would I aim my survey toward? I would most likely compromise my feelings and fill out a fairly middle-of-the-road survey. Now my survey is meaningless. It has made my best and most hard-working teachers look mediocre, while raising less enthusiastic teachers to a satisfactory level.
Some teachers spend their Saturdays at school. Others offer before- and after-school study sessions with extensive office hours for struggling students. Some teachers put their phone numbers on the board at the beginning of school in case one should ever have a question. Many teachers sit down on weekends to write tons of recommendations for their students. Certain teachers spend money out of their own pockets for class materials. Some spend hours planning new, engaging lesson plans. Why should these devoted individuals be overshadowed by a blanket survey?
I believe in rewarding those who work hard and show enthusiasm for their work. Students are much more likely to put in their best effort when they know the teacher is also working, and wants them to understand the material. The incredible teachers that Park City High School is known for should be recognized. It would be a telling exercise to have the students of Park City High School fill out anonymous surveys about the individual teachers they have had at Park City High School during their four years. It is time to reward the teachers’ hard work and enthusiasm. The students are the ones that experience the teachers methods on a regular bases. Who would be better to evaluate about their teaching?