Teacher Performance Appraisal: Hearing From First Year Voices

On Friday, I started off my day as I always do, reading Doug Peterson‘s This Week In Ontario Edublogs post. One of the posts included that caught my attention was Laura Bottrell‘s blog post on the Teacher Performance Appraisal process. Reading her post took me back to my first year of teaching.

My first teaching experience was an interesting one. I was initially hired part-time to teach Grade 1 math, science, social studies, art, music, and health. While I taught every afternoon, I often went in early each morning to prepare. I was sharing a classroom with another teacher, who taught the class language. I tried to be cognizant of my mess — or do we call that, “my planning?!” 🙂 — so I normally kept my things in a big box or a giant bag that I could cart between home and school. Basically the pile just got bigger until I needed to start a new one. 🙂 Then, at the end of September, I was lucky enough to receive another part-time position at a different school. I was now going to teach half-day kindergarten every morning. I had my own room, but only 30 minutes to travel between the two schools, so no real way of organizing either space. I still remember the piles of paper work on the shelves in my kindergarten classroom: everything I wanted to put up, but never seemed to have time to do so. A week before Open House, the principal at my morning school gently suggested that I consider hanging up some of the work and cleaning up some of the mess. Oy! I quickly rushed back from my afternoon school to my morning one to turn my classroom into a room that parents would want to see. This experience encapsulates my first year of teaching: treading water and barely keeping my head above it! 

With two schools, two principals, and two very different teaching assignments, somehow I made it through the first year without getting evaluated. This wasn’t intentional. I did try to make the evaluation happen. But life happened too, and the year got away from all of us. Maybe that was a good thing. I wonder now if I would have passed that evaluation 19 years ago … and if I did, it would likely not have been by much. But then things got better. I got one full-time position teaching kindergarten at the school where I taught just in the morning. Now I was at one school, with one staff, and one grade. Far more doable. The job wasn’t easy. This was an inner-city school, and that year, our elementary school was merging with the middle school beside it. There was construction, the combination of teaching staff, and a two principal situation instead of one principal and one vice principal. With a very high needs school, the principals were always beyond busy, and again, my evaluation never happened. Admin came into the classroom all the time. They saw me teach. Maybe with our recent TPA process, an evaluation could have happened, but things were different back then. Without NTIP (New Teacher Induction Program), I became a permanent teacher, and then my evaluations started to happen more regularly.

I share these stories because I know that in those two years, I couldn’t highlight the kind of teaching that I do now.

  • I didn’t have as many experiences.
  • I was not as aware of curriculum expectations.
  • I needed more support in modifying and accommodating programs for kids with different learning needs. 
  • I didn’t know about Self-Reg, nor consider it when planning or programming. Self-Reg was not talked about back then. “Classroom management” was always key. 
  • I didn’t know my learners more than some marks and a few anecdotal comments that I recorded on a class list. 
  • Building relationships was always secondary to teaching, and teaching meant me at the front of the classroom delivering content to everyone.

Learn more, do better. I live by these words. I also know that being a first year teacher is different than being a 19th year teacher. There’s a reason that the TPA Process for beginning teachers only focuses on some of the competencies. Yet, here I am involved in NTIP in a different capacity: as a mentor. When the group of kindergarten mentors first met with the new teachers, many wanted to see what I did for my evaluation last year. I shared my document of experiences with the group of new teachers, as I knew that I would be grateful many years ago if somebody shared these experiences with me. But now I’m left wondering: in an attempt to support these educators, did I end up overwhelming them? My experiences are different now than they would have been in my first year. In retrospect, I would have shared Laura’s blog post with them instead. 

Laura reminds me that as wonderful as it is to pair experienced teachers with new ones, do mentees also need to hear the voices of these new teachers to know that they’re not alone and doing okay? Maybe they also need to hear our first year stories to know that the teachers we are today are very different than the ones that we were many years ago. Reflection. Improvement. Growth. It takes time. Reading Laura’s post though reminds us of the learning that comes from the TPA process, and the value that comes from this learning. A good reminder for experienced educators too, I think. What about you?


4 thoughts on “Teacher Performance Appraisal: Hearing From First Year Voices

  1. I started teaching in New Jersey. Three performance appraisals each year for three years, then tenure was granted. I got so used to it. Then I came here. For my first formal evaluation, just after they became a requirement, my principal didn’t even come in to watch me. One day I was handed a completed form and told, “I’ve basically seen what you’re doing when I pop in or walk past.” Luckily it was a good evaluation, though I suppose the union would have been there to support me if it wasn’t!

    I like the NTIP program. But informal mentoring relationships are also so valuable. It’s great you’re connecting your mentoree to people besides you. I’ll never forget how grateful I was during a new teacher workshop in my first year when the presenter told us she still, in her 20th year, worried about her colleagues watching her teach and feeling like she could be doing better.

    • Thanks for the comment, Lisa! It definitely seems like a different experience in New Jersey. I still get nervous when my principal comes in to evaluate me. And I still always feel like there’s something more to learn. I think that’s an important message to get out to new teachers. I really like how our mentorship opportunity is actually for group mentorship. Then mentees can learn from each other as well as from a variety of mentors. We all have some different approaches so there are lots of different entry points and lots of different ideas exchanged. I also feel like I leave with some new ideas or new things to think about. That’s also really valuable! Curious to hear about other people’s experiences with the evaluation process. I feel as though we might all have some different ones.


    • Hahaha! I just listened to the first little bit of the video, and I kept thinking, “This is exactly what’s going through my head at observation time.” 🙂 Now I need to listen to the rest.

      Thanks for the chuckle, Stephen!

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