Guardian ExpressIs Education the Next Bubble? Part Two: Innovative SolutionsGuardian ExpressThis is part two of a series in which I asked a diverse group of people, “Is education the next bubble?
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Doesn’t matter what you call it, teacher and school evaluation is stressful. STRESSFUL! Because teachers work on their own so much, having someone else come into their classroom and watch them is stressful. Knowing that that person is also evaluating you – deliberately looking at your strengths and weaknesses – is doubly so.
Over the years, teacher evaluation has become a bit of a buzz word, a promise of a means to an end, a way to fix what is wrong with the education system. (No matter what country you’re from, the average Joe on your street will tell you that your education system is failing, that schools are worse now than they used to be, that it’s all going to hell in a bucket.) Is that necessarily true though?
One of the tricks that has been used in recent years is to link teacher evaluation to pay. In every other sector, your performance at work is already linked to your pay. If you don’t perform, you don’t get paid – as much, your bonus, or at all. Those performance indicators are the all-important grail which you aspire to reaching. You have to make X number of sales. You have to produce X number of units of whatever you’re manufacturing. You have to publish X number of articles per year.
Teachers have, for the vast majority of the time, been exempt from this. Once you’re in, you’re in, and it’s nigh on impossible to be fired unless you commit murder, or embark on a relationship with a pupil.
In SA, in many schools, or so the rumours go (and I see no reason to discount them), teachers sit in the staff room all day, or arrive drunk, and there are no consequences. Pupils don’t bother coming to school because they know they won’t get taught. It is in this context that teacher evaluation being linked to pay is being discussed.
How do you force those who aren’t doing their jobs to do so? Firing them won’t work, because where will you find new teachers in a country that simply isn’t producing enough high quality graduates? It would be better by far to get them to do the job they were trained for, to help them improve, to work with them to improve the quality of education. I believe this is what is at the heart of the move to link teacher pay to evaluation. Of course, the very teachers this is aimed at helping have jumped up and down and screamed injustice – or rather, their unions have. After all, it is much nicer to sit around drinking tea (or booze) all day and getting paid for it, than actually having to get off your butt and earn your salary.
For teachers who are doing their jobs though, teacher evaluation seems like such a waste of time. It’s window dressing. It’s providing evidence of what we already know.
And yet, it is so stressful never the less. Having your weaknesses see the light of day in black and white is not pretty, nor is it easy. For this reason, many teachers don’t take the evaluation seriously. When they are observing their peers, they gloss over the weaknesses, they focus on the strengths. They would rather not cause offence, or pain, and so don’t use it to really help that teacher develop. One lesson during the year we nip into someone else’s lesson, make a few notes about what they’re doing, and then all the forms go into a folder, where they sit until the following year. A few numbers are crunched, and we all get our increases, as normal.
Which leads me to wonder, again, at the value of this exercise.
Thus, it was with a measure of great surprise that I read this article: http://jorgewerthein.blogspot.fr/2012/08/can-teacher-evaluation-improve-teaching.html.
I guess, as with all things, implementation is the key. The question is, how do we go about changing the mind-set of our teachers, to see this as a positive experience, a learning experience, and neither a waste of time nor a terrifying obstacle?