How to Evaluate a Teacher, Really

This is a terrific article that appeared on Huffington Post by Nicholas Ferroni.

He speaks truths that every teacher will understand.

This is what he did this week:

This week of school, like every other week, was pretty normal: I gave out about fifty dollars to various students who didn't have lunch money; I resolved two teenage relationship issues; I comforted three girls who, for some reason, think they are so ugly that no boys will ever like them; I got three students, who have whispered three words each all year, to speak in front of the class; I paid for four students to join the gym and also offered to train them in order for them to deal with their aggression constructively; I went out of my way to make sure that five of my students, who I know are having problems at home, know that they are intelligent, strong and have so much to offer this world. So, in the education world where you deal with hundreds of uniquely individual teenagers trying to accept who they are, it's just a normal week. I am not trying to brag because my commitment to my students is not the exception but the norm, especially at the high school where I teach where so many of my colleagues, day in and day out, give their hearts, souls and money to their students without a thought. I also do not want your sympathy because I, like most teachers, went into education for this very reason: to educate, empower and nurture youth.

Yet politicians constantly take pot shots at teachers and try to find a metric to weigh their value, usually with test scores. Teaching is so much more complicated and demanding than test prep, Ferroni explains.

He adds:

Without going into too much off topic, has anyone advocating for teacher evaluation and merit pay ever even consider what impact it will have on the performance of students in the classroom? They are incredibly naive if they think that the fact that all accountability now lies on a teacher's performance, and not the student, will not lead students performance to decline. Why would students work harder to excel in the classroom, when they are completely free of any responsibility for their grade? This is ultimately suggesting that each student has no role in their own success or failure in the classroom. Any one of us who has attended school knows that without a doubt that, not only are we responsible for our own academic performance, but that we are far more responsible than our teachers, our parents and even our friends were for our grades.

This brings me back to my opening paragraph; the most important role a teacher plays in the lives of his or her students is not as an examiner, but as a nurturer. Attempting to evaluate a teacher based on standardized tests is like evaluating a doctor solely on whether a patient lives, dies, or is cured. Just as every doctor gives his or her all attempting to save and cure patients, every teacher gives his or her entire self to students (who we treat more like our own children than our students). I can't imagine a world where teachers are so fearful of losing their jobs because their students, who may be going through so many various and horrible circumstances, that they disregard the emotional role of an educator and focus solely on the academics. I will never tell a student, "Stop crying! I don't care if you are depressed, or you haven't eaten breakfast, or your parents beat you. I need you to do your work and study so you do well on your exam, so we meet our district goals and my pay is not garnished!"

How to Evaluate a Teacher, Really

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