Monday, August 30, 2004

Paradise, Favorites, and The Evaluation Headgame

It is well known around the Education Community that principals evaluate teachers. Many teachers publicly "shrug-off" evaluations with an "I'm not worried about it" attitude. As a matter of fact, nearly all teachers do worry about their evaluations. All appearances of non-worry aside, there is something disquieting about having a person walk into your classroom unannounced, sit down, and start taking notes. Fact is, your job's security is often placed into the hands of an individual that has not actually taught since the Stone Age.

Like nearly every rule in the Education World, there are exceptions. The Evaluation Headgame is no different. There are two distinctly different groups of teachers that truly do not worry about their performance evaluations.

The first group are those teachers that have less than five years before retirement. These teachers do not worry because by the time the system can threaten their jobs, they are have entered teacher paradise. (Otherwise known as retirement.) Teachers such as these are particularly safe if they have a desk drawer full of good evaluations from prior years. Even though teachers so close to retirement are often thought of by their younger colleagues as "burned out" the opposite is often true. It is a fact that many last-year teachers don't run at 110%. But a greater number like to finish their careers with a strong (teaching wise) last year.

The second group of teachers that are immune from the Evaluation Head Games is actually toxic to the school community. Any person that has worked for any time at all in a public school will recognize this group. They are collectively known as The Principal's Favorites. This clique (And clique it is as membership is by invitation only.) does not worry at all about performance evaluations. For them, the evaluative process is a mere formality.

Favorites nearly always take advantage of the special place that they occupy within the school hierarchy. They think of themselves as the principal's buddies. Favorites can arrive late at staff meetings and have side conversations among themselves during the meeting. They may be rude or ill-behaved toward other staff. They do these things without any fear of consequences. Members of this group nearly always have a very negative effect on morale, as those that don't belong to the clique resent the privileges that membership confers.

A wise principal will not allow the existence of a group that can be thought of as The Principal's Favorites. He or she should assume the same attitude of a ship's captain. That is to say, " it's lonely at the top." As the captain of a ship cannot have buddies among the crew, so should the principal of a school avoid having buddies within the faculty.

Should any captain or principal fail to maintain a certain distance with the crew or staff, he or she should find another vessel to command.