Taping Teachers

After watching Bill Gates’s TEDtalk on giving teachers feedback three things came to mind:

  1. I agreed with some of his ideas and statements
  2. I didn’t know how I felt about some of his ideas
  3. How much I hate seeing myself on camera

Watch the TEDtalk here:

I think teachers need feedback.  We won’t grow or change without if we think that we have nothing to change, that goes for people in all aspects of life.  I once had a teacher for an English class who didn’t grade our writing and hand it back until the end of the year.  I’ll never forget when after our third assignment of the year he commented how our writing should be improving but he didn’t feel like it was. The comment shocked me, how we were supposed to improve if we had no idea what we work on?  And did I ever wish I could have been able to tell hime what he needed to work on. Here’s the thing with feedback, no one really wants to hear what they are doing wrong all the time.  I sure don’t.  But here is the second part, we need to hear what we are doing wrong.  Teachers owe it to their students to know how to help them better. I like that Bill Gates is trying to help improve schools through helping teachers, I feel like it would be nice to have some more support because I feel like I am just going to be thrown into the classroom.

Student evaluations could help teachers understand what they need to continue to teach and how they need to continue to improve.  In this article: http://www.edutopia.org/student-feedback-accountability-teachers the author makes a good point that if we are evaluating the students they should evaluate teachers as well.  Maybe not to the point of giving grades but to gauge how they are taking the information. Now, as with any evaluation or assessment there is no way to know exactly how accurate they are.  As discussed in this article http://blogs.berkeley.edu/2013/10/14/do-student-evaluations-measure-teaching-effectiveness/ and the article mentioned before if you have students give grades or numbers that can be very arbitrary.  (And from the student perspective when I am asked to fill out evaluations on my professors I have no idea what the difference is between ranking them a “4” or a “5” because those are just numbers. But maybe that it’s not a “1” so they have to be doing better.)

I’ve actually always wondered why in high school at least they never asked for my opinion of the classes I was taking or my opinion of the teachers. I’m not asking them to have me rank them or grade them but allow me to give my written feedback.  It’s always easier to complain and it’s always harder to read someone’s complaints especially if they are about you but it could be a great way to learn what we need to do better.

Bill Gates also spent a lot of time talking about video taping teachers and having them turn in the videos they want in order to be reviewed. I’m not really sure about this but I do know that it is an up and coming idea for educators and will be implemented with the new edTPA requirements.  If the video is used in the way that the teacher in the video showed then it could be great to help teachers see how they interact.  If teachers reflect on it as they are watching and think about what they are going to change in the future then that could be really beneficial.  The problem is that you have to be pretty secure with yourself and open yourself up to the idea.  I have had the privilege of hearing that teacher speak at a conference where she discussed the video she said she got the most attention for:

 https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/when-lesson-plans-fail

She was strong enough to not only review the video itself but open up her “failed” lesson to the world.  She shouldn’t be evaluated as a bad teacher because she had one day that went wrong.  I would actually consider her a great teacher because she admitted what she did wrong and wanted to fix it.  Maybe we should allow teachers to video themselves but make sure offer them a supportive environment to help them improve.

The downside to giving teachers feedback is if there are other things riding on it.  If they are given poor feedback and there is no improvements made will they be fired?  Will salaries ride on how “well” someone is preforming? I’m not sure if that’s fair. I’ve had plenty of classes where one day there is an administrator sitting in the back for evaluation and all of a sudden the teacher has objectives written on the board and they super concerned with making multiple students share ideas.  That skews the evaluation because when the administrator isn’t there or if the camera isn’t on it changes the behavior, and really we can’t blame them.  Wouldn’t everyone in every profession do the same?  So how do we help teachers receive quality feedback?  I think its about building a positive network in the schools, having teachers regularly support each other and encourage asking for help.  Show them it’s ok to mess up sometimes and give them a camera to film their class.  If you encourage teachers to evaluate themselves maybe they will become more likely to do it and to improve our schools.

All I can think of though is how much I hate to see myself on video.  But maybe that’s because while I am aware of what I say and do every day, it is much different to actually see yourself, hear your tone, and see all the mannerisms you might not catch otherwise up on a screen.  Seeing myself on video always makes me critique how I am acting even if I videotaped myself for a project and had the chance to redo it multiple times (and makes me cringe just thinking about it). In the classroom you don’t have multiple times to redo every lesson so it’s critical that you have the best shot at getting it right the first time and maybe watching yourself on video (though I’m cringing just thinking about it) can help you get it right the next day.  We make students struggle through things all the time, I think we owe it to them to make ourselves struggle through our own evaluations.

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