Today is the last day of Winter Break, and it’s been a wonderful two weeks off to rest, relax, read, and recharge. While most of my Break was spent connecting with family and friends and reading some wonderful books, I spent a little time this past week doing some school work. This year is my T.P.A. (Teacher Performance Appraisal) year, and one thing that I like to do in preparation for this is to go through the five domains, multiple competencies, and even more look for’s: finding and sourcing evidence that aligns with each one. Since I share most of my personal and professional growth and reflections through our class blog and my professional blog (plus The MEHRIT Centre Blog), I can often provide direct links to posts that support my development for each of the competencies. Yes, it takes a lot of time to do this — and absolutely nobody requires me to do this work — but I actually like the process of sitting back, reflecting, remembering previous experiences, and even looking at my growth as an educator since my last T.P.A. five years ago. When I was evaluated the last time, I was teaching Grade 5, and that same principal, evaluated me many years before when he was a vice principal and I was teaching kindergarten. Times change. As someone who likes change, I’ve had many professional changes over the years, and I’ve worked through this evaluation process in different ways. This time though, I noticed something that I wasn’t expecting.
A couple of days ago, I sent out this tweet.
As I work through the Five Domains for the TPA, I really wish that the Kindergarten Program Document weighed in on some of the Look For's. Things are different, especially when it comes to evaluation and programming. #BlogPostBrewing #NeedToFinishThisFirst
— 𝘼𝙫𝙞𝙫𝙖 𝘿𝙪𝙣𝙨𝙞𝙜𝙚𝙧 (@avivaloca) January 4, 2019
I was surprised to see how there are a large number of look for’s which now no longer apply to Kindergarten educators. This is especially true when it comes to evaluation and programming. Our Growing Success — The Kindergarten Addendum does not include “assessment of learning.” We do not evaluate students. We’re constantly collecting and analyzing documentation, and planning based on our observations of and discussions with students. Pedagogical Documentation is huge in Kindergarten, and I certainly have lots of examples to share how I observe and plan for and with kids. Assessment is different from evaluation though, and I think that this difference is important to note. Expectations are not a checklist (not as though I think they should be in any grade), we don’t use rubrics or assign grades, and we don’t have an Achievement Chart. While I’m sure that the references in the look for’s could apply to assessment as well as evaluation, I think that it’s worth noting how our Kindergarten Document varies from curriculum expectations. I found myself writing about these differences and then sharing what we do.
A similar comment could be made when it comes to program delivery. I keep thinking about this shift in the updated Kindergarten Program Document.
.@TessaHeffernan @KinderFynes I think my biggest shift is summed up best here. #framingfdk pic.twitter.com/VEnsTsuIue
— 𝘼𝙫𝙞𝙫𝙖 𝘿𝙪𝙣𝙨𝙞𝙜𝙚𝙧 (@avivaloca) August 22, 2016
Planning is very responsive to students. More than with any other grade — at least thanks to the front matter in the Kindergarten Document compared to others — kids are truly at the centre of programming and assessment. This doesn’t mean that we avoid direct and guided instruction, but it does mean that this instruction is often based on the interests, skills, and needs of the child, and can vary significantly from child to child. Again, as I shared links related to these programming look for’s, I found myself explaining the Kindergarten Program Document and how this transfers to our instruction.
As I wrote about these differences, I started to wonder how I might feel if I was a first year teacher going through this process.
- Would I feel compelled to change my practices based on some of the look for’s?
- Would I willingly question these look for’s as confidently as I do now, knowing that I also have the Kindergarten Program Document to support this discourse?
- Would I feel confident that my principal would be open to these conversations, knowing that we can all reflect and learn together?
Eighteen years into teaching, I’d like to think that I would have answered, “yes,” to all of these questions, but I think that the more honest answer would be, “no.” In fact, while I believe in everything that I wrote in my Five Domains Document, and totally trust my principal, John, to engage in these discussions if needed, I was still a little nervous to question the look for’s. I even found myself going back into the Kindergarten Program Document and Growing Success — The Kindergarten Addendum to check that what I thought was correct was most certainly correct. Cue the #butterfliesinmystomach and #throwingupfeeling that I experienced five years ago. 🙂 This past week caused me to wonder about the repercussions of not having updated look for’s in the Teacher Performance Appraisal Manual. How might some outdated look for’s impact on what Kindergarten teachers choose to share, how they choose to teach, and how they assess as part of this evaluation process? If the T.P.A. Process is really about learning, then I wonder what we can all learn by critically questioning what we read … even if that reading is part of the process itself? Now that my Five Domains Document is completed and shared, I can anxiously await some discussions as I also try to engage others in them.