Teaching Evaluation Without the Teacher


Last year, it was my turn to be observed. After teaching for 27 years, I was ready to take a risk, try something new. So I went to my principal and asked, “Do I have to be in my classroom when you come do my observation?” As you can imagine, she didn’t exactly know how to respond. But since my boss was a good sport, and trusted me, she said, “Well, what do you have in mind?” After I explained, she decided to play along.

When the time came, my principal walked into my room and I walked out. It was a very good year, probably the best group of kids I’d ever had, a class of very mature fifth graders. One girl ran the class. She managed 32 students reviewing a language arts assignment. The students worked in groups, pairs, and held a whole class discussion. According to my principal, my observation went well. I had to take her word for it, since I wasn’t there.

So why would I do such a crazy thing?

About 12 years ago, I began my journey to make my students the most independent they possibly could be. I had read an archived newsletter at learningcentered.org that told the story of a sub who didn’t show up for school. The principal was walking the hallways, noticed the kids in one class working away diligently, but didn’t see any teacher. Upon inquiry of the students, the principal found out that the teacher hadn’t shown up, and neither had the substitute. So the kids just went about their business of learning. This struck me. Could my students do this? Would they?

So to me, the real assessment of my teaching is how my students work without me. And if that’s my goal, then why should I be in the room for my teacher observation?

Am I crazy? Did I get you thinking? Talk to me.