Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I got Danielson'ed!

It happened. 

I got Danielson'ed. By that I mean an observation / evaluation went, in many ways, the way teachers fear they can.

You may have read that one post  I wrote about a dud observation I had. I wrote about how there were a number of things I could have done better, and also a number of things that I felt the observer didn't notice that I thought went well, and my surprise about that.  In the post after that , I wrote about writing my summer unit plans and being concerned about them being written the "right way." where my professional judgement calls digress from that, and how it was all going to turn out.

Some of those worries were justified. 

The felt the unit / lesson plans I developed were good. To be specific, there is a summer theme, and I chose  books relating to that theme and as a culminating project, students would create their own booklets based on them. In addition we used words from the book to reinforce sight word recognition, and decoding. And I also know its really important for my  cognitively disabled students to continue to review concepts and drill - the alphabet, the sounds, etc in order to be able to access their learning in a variety of areas.

So I wrote all of that in the lesson plan. Well, actually it was a unit plan.

The observer did not read it.

She did glance through it - and did note that it was formatted and structured decently in the feedback. However in the feedback it was also noted that the sight word work we were working on that day was disconnected from the summer theme, which made me hurrumph a bit, because I feel like if she had read the lesson plan - which listed  the sight words in the book that were the targets for the unit, along with the daily practice i feel is so important for the students - she would have understood better. 

Also, she stayed for about 20 minutes, and entered about 10 minutes into the period. I also feel like if she had been able to see the beginning of the lesson, she would have seen the class read through the pages of the book and point out the sight words - and would have understood better.

So, I was rated "developing" in some areas that I felt were in fact effective, and may have reflected that if the observer was able to read through the lesson plan, stay for the whole period, and ya know...just ask me. 

It felt sort of unfair. Not because I'm not "developing"  in some areas (and my superteacher mommy Mrs Rim correctly pointed out that all teachers are always developing, if you wanna look at it that way). But if my intent and purpose and professional  judgements are not discussed or misconstrued by an observer who has not read a plan, then how can I improve? 

I know these things are a snapshot, and I think the observer does, too. But you can't really cram all zillion domains into 20 minutes or so.  To be fair, I think these Danielson evaluations are a weird panacea to the nonexisitent "education is in crisis because teachers are bad" rhetoric that's  bouncing around. Observers and administrators are in a pickle, too. That goes double for those of us that work with special ed students...(that's another post altogether). 

What to do about it?...  The culture of my school is such that I feel like having a conversation with someone about this would be to put myself too much on the radar, I'd be a complainer - and also, it's summer. I'm also not especially confident that one person would be listened to...

I'm getting ahead of myself here, but I think the anxiety of this kind of stuff is very much in the minds of teachers as this new evaluation thing goes forward. What usually worked and got great feedback in years past is suddenly wrong - and most of it I think is because the Danielson rubric is mystifyingly specific and vague.. and that goes double for applying it to the most challenging special ed populations. 

I seriously worry that I'll get some sort of "developing" rating 2 years in a row and end up in fear for my job and bread and butter.  I've been teaching for 6 years and have had a number of years of experience with people with developmental disabilities before that - I'm almost 40. This is a real source of anxiety for many, more experienced, and better teachers than I. 

I'm all for working on the stuff that is "me," but I really don't like it when "you" make me feel wrong.

Especially if you don't ask me. 


  1. So sorry you and every other teacher must go through this BS. It has nothing to do with good teaching.

  2. This has absolutely nothing to do with good thing. Absolutely nothing. I've been in the classroom for 13 years. I'm one of the strongest teachers in my school and even I know that we're just going to crammed on these observations. As I go through it, I'm going to make a concerted effort to not let it get to my head. It will be hard enough without having to deal with anxieties around the labels of good or bad. I hope you approach it that way took.

    1. Sorry, one more thing; it's two years of "ineffective" where you should worry. Your job is safe with two years of "developing".

  3. Thanks for "listening!" Its nice to "be heard" and validated. Again, I don't pretend to be perfect, but my kids and my job are really important to me.
    Pissed Off, I love your blog.