In many schools, teachers and administrators meet annually to discuss teaching qualifications for continued employment. How can you prepare for these meetings to put your best foot forward?
Further reading: A Teacher Self-Evaluation Checklist
Tackling a Teacher Evaluation
A performance review meeting can range from a short, informal discussion to a data-driven evaluation that includes how the teacher's students have performed on standardized tests.
Because contract renewal is sometimes a topic, these meetings can be an understandable source of anxiety for some teachers. Even if your continued employment is assured, meeting with an administrator to discuss your performance and teaching qualifications can be stressful. Carefully preparing for these meetings can not only reduce stress but also increase the chances that the meeting will be useful and productive.
Setting Your Expectations
If this is your first year of teaching, ask one of your more experienced colleagues how these meetings typically are conducted. The school secretary is another resource who can help you by providing information about the meeting. Ask straightforward questions like how long these meetings usually last, if you need to bring anything, and who will be in attendance. It's always a little disconcerting, for example, if you're expecting to meet with just your principal and you walk in to find other people attending the meeting as well.
Once you have the lay of the land, take some time to reflect on your year so far. What have been the high points? What could you have done better? What plans do you have for next year? What programs or practices would you like to learn more about? Anticipating topics your principal might bring up can help reduce your anxiety about the meeting.
Because you should've had a classroom evaluation or two by this point, review what evaluators have said about your classroom performance. Finally, if you have access to any standardized testing results from your students, review those too.
Preparing for Feedback
Your principal may ask how you think your year is going so far or whether you've improved a particular skill based on your classroom observations. You should be prepared to talk about those things.
Become familiar with your school's policy and practices around standardized test results. Many schools are moving away from making decisions about renewing a teacher's contract based on one year's results. Some look at test scores over several years, some factor in demographic information, and many don't even consider test results at all given the research indicating the unreliability of data.
Your annual review is typically not a time for administrators to surprise you with previously undiscussed negative feedback. If your principal gives you suggestions for improvement, simply thank her and tell her you'll continue to work on your classroom performance. Then actually follow through; she'll be checking on those specific points next year. If your principal says you're doing a great job and keep it up, wait until you're out of the office to do your happy dance!
Making the Most of the Annual Review
These meetings provide a time for you to speak candidly to your principal about your plans or your interest in learning more about certain strategies that might enhance your teaching qualifications. While it's great to be recognized for good work, all feedback is important so you can make any necessary changes that will make you a better teacher. And keep in mind that reviews often turn out to be very positive and supportive.
Further reading: 3 Tips for Building a Better Relationship with Your School’s Principal
A teacher evaluation can be stressful, but preparing for it and knowing what to expect can reduce your anxiety. Remember that your principal wants you to be successful, and know that the process will become less worrisome as time goes on and you have a few of them under your belt!