Tuesday, December 24, 2019

On Student Notes and Rubrics

You go to meetings and someone tells you to group kids in a certain way, or present information in a certain way. Maybe if you do this, it will help maintain interest. Maybe it won't.

You never really know, since likely as not the person who came up with the idea isn't a classroom teacher and never tried it, let alone anything else you do in the classroom. There are a whole lot of people whose jobs entail knowing more than we do about what we do, except they don't do it.

We get these rating sheets where we are marked on a rubric. We're effective, highly effective, effectively high, or I want to take you higher. What does it really mean? Unless you get a bad rating, it means little or nothing. Do the people rating you really understand what's going on in the classroom? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe your supervisor only taught three years, only taught in one situation, only taught one kind of class, and has no idea of the variables going on in your classroom. Maybe your supervisor knows the Danielson rubric and truly believes it encompasses every possibility.

Sometimes kids step up, though, well beyond where the idiotic survey the city put out did, and draw outside the lines. A friend of mine who got a questionable rating recently posted a note from a student on Facebook that expressed something completely different from what the supervisor saw through the Danielson prism. This kid felt safe and understood in this classroom. That's important, and it's likely kids who bring up this sort of thing don't feel the same way elsewhere.

I treasure notes like these, and you'd better believe I look at them more times than any observation report I've received, ever. Not every student will step up and express that sort of thing, and I'd argue that if one does, others want to also. How can a supervisor see something like that? How do you measure that on a rubric? Instead, the supervisor will send you an email on Thursday period seven, and you won't see it because you teach period 8 and coach the track team the rest of the day. By 5 AM, when you wake up to go to work the next day, the supervisor will be haranguing you for ignoring this world-shattering email. Who knows what that supervisor will see next time in your class, through the prism of having that all-important email ignored?

I know great supervisors. I know reasonable supervisors. I also know childish and juvenile supervisors. I know self-important, self-serving supervisors who never should've gotten the job. I knew one highly ambitious teacher who used to work in colleges and had his high school students grade the college papers, because he couldn't. He was an incompetent teacher and now he's an incompetent supervisor. How could anyone's practice revolve around his opinions?

On my way out last Friday two students told me they missed me and hugged me right there in the hall. Why couldn't I be their teacher? I said maybe next year. You never know, or at least I never do. Things like that suggest to me I must be doing something right somewhere. Of course there are still a whole lot of students who haven't hugged me, so maybe that could be viewed as the opposite.

Your supervisor may, in fact, be correctly assessing what's going on in your classroom. But who knows how you can figure that out? Maybe we need to develop a rubric to determine whether or not your supervisor has a geranium in her cranium.
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