So I had my first unannounced evaluation this week. One of the assistant principals popped into my room about two-thirds of the way into 2nd period as my freshmen were working on their Personal Narrative rough drafts. And what was I doing? Sitting behind my desk scoring papers. Ugh.
Quarter Trio teams had just completed an in-class challenge right before the writing time and I was trying to get the game papers marked so I could announce team standings before the end of the period. The assistant principal, of course, didn’t know this. She saw kids silently working and a teacher behind a desk in the back of the room – a weak first impression, to say the least.
Blood pressure rising, I wanted to shout, “Wait, gimme a do-over! Come back in 10 minutes and we’ll be doing something awesome.” Instead, all I could do was launch myself out of my teacher chair and get busy explainin’ myself. I had my students greet the assistant principal and then they got back to work (mercifully, even my rowdy ones refocused quickly) as I showed her our Quarter Trio game plan and buried her with a flurry of Personal Narrative support materials (thank goodness for extra copies). The last third of class was a model of good teaching, as I worked the room, helping kids over writing speed bumps with detailed feedback, such as:
“Look, you’ve started three of your first four sentences with ‘I.’ Let’s replace two of those with different sentence starters to improve the flow.”
“Oh, I like this detail, but let’s get it higher in the paragraph. What if you cut this sentence, the one that starts with ‘There was,’ and slid this other sentence higher?”
I even got them to stay off their phones during the morning announcements – no small feat.
As I write this, I’m thinking it’s possible I’m being too hard on myself. The results of the evaluation were favorable and included a lot of “proficient” and even a few “distinguished” marks. Huzzah! One of my core beliefs remains that good teaching is active; the reality, though, is that we sometimes need to sit down and mark a few papers or even just catch our breath in the middle of a 90-minute class. My administrator knows this, too. As we wrapped our feedback conversation, the lunch bell rang and she had no time to linger or even to eat. She was off, running to her next meeting, while I had 35 minutes to tuck into my PB&J and finish marking those papers.
To recap, I’ll have my good friend Jean-Luc Picard take it from here:
Teach on, everyone.
(Note: These images are the property of Paramount Pictures and Jean-Luc Picard is not actually my friend. I just wish he were.)