Showing Evidence: What Makes Me Sad

By Kathleen Sullivan

As teachers, we are navigating our way through a new evaluation model meant to “prove” that we are conducting ourselves as reliable and responsible professionals and that we are using best practices to deliver content to our students.

Evaluating teachers and administrators is not a bad thing. We do need to show evidence to parents, administrators, and the general public that we are delivering the best possible education to our students.

So why does it make me sad that we are now expected to show evidence that we are doing good work? Because it means that teachers who are innately giving, kind, and compassionate people are forced to gather up evidence of each act of humanity and save them in an evaluation binder.

In one section of this binder, we are expected to gather evidence that “proves” we not only care deeply about our students and colleagues, but that they appreciate us as well. How? By keeping a record of all of our kind acts toward our students and colleagues and collecting hard copies of any appreciative comments directed towards us as teachers.

We must keep a record any time we assist a colleague who needs some help. This shows collaboration. We must save any email thanking us for coming to a school event or doing something we do every day as teachers–staying late to help students, planning a fundraiser to support our community, dropping off supplies and food for a school family living in a shelter. This will be proof that we participate beyond our regular school days.

Not the way I was raised

Why does this part of the evaluation tool bother me so much? It goes against my grain as a person. In my family, we were brought up to do things for others because it’s the right thing to do. The only real “thank you” one truly needs is the great feeling that comes from doing good for your family, your friends, your colleagues, and your community. In my stoic, blue collar family, no one boasted about their achievements or what they did for others.  If someone did, they heard: “Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back.”

My dad was a quiet guy who quietly made a difference in many lives throughout his 79 years. “Proof” came at his death when people lined up to tell us what a wonderful man he was by always doing kind acts quietly, out of the limelight.

It makes me sad to think that teachers now have to ask students to write down any compliments so they can have a record of building student-teacher relationships to “prove” they are reaching their students academically and personally.

We already have reduced students to a list of data points. Now we are doing it with teachers–data that “proves” we are good people, good teachers and good human beings.

“Proving” I am teaching our students well is one thing. Being asked to “prove” that I am a good person simply depletes me.

Kathleen Sullivan teaches 5th grade science at a public school in Malden, Massachusetts. 

Comments

  1. I will teach about 16,000 minutes over the next two years. Yet my evaluation will consist of artifacts that I am a good teacher and 100 minutes of observation. We call this an improved evaluation system. Sad.

    • Kathleen Sulllivan says:

      Hi Jeff, Thank you for your reply. I agree with you. As teachers, we continue to be a pawn in the political arena and in public opinion as well. The public bashing of our professions is disheartening at best. I have to remind myself why we came to be teachers. We are special people who are committed to not only educating our children but teaching them life lessons. One lesson being that we must persevere on our journey despite the challenges and criticism because we are at the forefront of molding our youth to be leaders with compassionate hearts.

  2. Rebecca Playford says:

    I just read Kathleen’s article and I couldn’t agree more. My frustration lies in the amount of time it takes to prove yourself in the binder. I am a very hard worker and always take work home. My work at home is always for my students as they are always my top priority. Now a lot of my work at home is to prove that I do my job. It takes away from the time that I usually spend on my students. This frustrates me greatly. Shouldn’t our main focus be on our students? :(

    • Kathleen Sulllivan says:

      Yes Rebecca. One more thing to “prove” we are doing our job. Student data, numerous exams to become licensed teachers, ongoing professional development, and going above and beyond without asking for accolades no longer suffices. We have to take time to “prove” even more that we are good teachers and good people.

  3. A paper trail is one thing, but the whole thing is too much paper & clerical.

    • Kathleen Sulllivan says:

      Brenda, It seems the more we do, the more is asked of us. I love teaching kids. It’s the lack of support that wears me down. We are teachers, counselors, social workers, and dedicated to our kids. I will keep my sense of humor, lead by example for my students, and continue to jump through hoops to satisfy public opinion.

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