Last week, I had my fourth teacher evaluation in the UAE and I must say that it was a rather pleasant experience. I have had three previous evaluations which could all be likened to a train wreck. Let me explain…In my previous school the senior management team mandated that we provided mountains of binders containing evidence for each standard and each indicator under each standard. This led to teachers including me, frantically gathering every piece of paper we could find to put into those binders. As the evaluation meetings drew closer the frenzy would pick up pace and people would begin to check each other’s’ binders ensuring that they did not miss anything and the paper evidence exchange would then begin in earnest. It also meant that throughout the years I was constantly taking photographs of every single thing I did, every activity I participated in, after a while I felt like I was a detective preparing for a court date.
The meetings would come and it would be a time of heightened anxiety, as the team would comb through the binder asking questions as they go along. At the end of the meeting they would hand you a completed evaluation sheet for signing. If you did not agree with what was on the sheet a long heated debate would then ensue. I have to be honest I never debated; I normally accepted what was given. I did not accept because I agreed, rather I accepted because I thought it was the easier route. I did not want to be like some of my colleagues who came out of the meeting crying or suffering from anxiety. I wondered how the senior management team who only came to my classes on fewer than three occasions in total could make an informed judgement on me as a professional. However, for the sake of self-preservation I would just sign and leave.
This year was so different. The senior management team, especially the Academic Vice Principal (AVP) and the Head of Faculty were constantly in and out of my classroom, conducting observations, walkthroughs or just saying hello. When they attended, apart from observing, they offered useful tips and strategies. The Head of Faculty attended most of our common planning sessions and helped. We were required to submit weekly lesson plans which were checked, so the team was pretty clued in on what was taking place in the classes.
A month before the evaluation meeting, we were given the evaluation audit form to complete as a method of self-evaluation. Once we returned the form, the AVP wrote back to ask for evidence for the standards or indicators for which she needed more information in order to make an informed judgement. Most of the teachers that I spoke to were not asked to bring anything as the senior team agreed with their evaluations of themselves. I was asked to bring more evidence for one standard.
The meeting date came and I was allotted a twenty-minute slot. Not the one-hour required in my previous school. The meeting ran smoothly and at the end the AVP asked for suggestions on things I see in the school that needs improving or implementing for the upcoming school year.
My current school is by no means perfect; however this evaluation experience makes me think that it has the potential to be one of the better schools in Abu Dhabi.