How to Talk to Your Principal About Your Evaluation

How DO you talk to your administrator about your evaluation?
We’ve all had a principal that was easy to approach (or at least I hope you’ve had the privilege of working for this type of principal).  Someone who makes you feel like you work ‘with them’ instead of ‘for them’.  Someone that listens, encourages, guides, leads, and professionally corrects.
But what do you do if your administrator isn’t like this?

First, remember to show respect to the position. Even if you can’t respect the person, you can respect the position.  Sometimes it is hard to separate the two, especially when your administrator isn’t acting professionally. But in all circumstances YOU need to remain professional.

If you feel like you have been unfairly evaluated, respond ONLY AFTER you have prepared.  Preparation includes: reviewing the evaluation with your lesson, and having a trusted colleague or mentor review it (sometimes we are too close to a situation to see it clearly).

Take a step back from the situation, a day or two. If you are too hasty with your response you may regret it.  Try to get your mind off of it.  Seek guidance on possible responses from a real friend. A real friend is someone who will be honest, even if it isn’t what you want to hear.  I always pray before responding. I have found this to be the most helpful of all suggestions.

Write out responses.  This is helpful in reviewing whether you are being petty or professional. It is also a good way to make sure that you are covering the important points.

Before scheduling an appointment, determine if you want to meet alone or with a representative. If your relationship with your principal has not been good and you feel that the situation could become disciplinary, ask for a representative.   It also may be a good idea to have a non-biased third party take notes of the meeting. Be courteous and notify your principal, if you ask a representative to attend. Don’t start off on the wrong foot by surprising your principal and putting them on the defensive.

 Most situations are not as bad as we first think. Everyone can make mistakes and sometimes these oversights result in a misunderstanding.  Once, an assistant principal gave me a negative mark for not having “I Can Statements” or objectives posted. The “I Can” poster had been put up before school started and my daily objectives were always written on the board. He simply overlooked them.  I took pictures of both with a camera that time-stamped pictures and sent him an email with a short message.  I didn’t make a big production out of it. I simply stated that the statements and objectives were posted, but must not be in a location where they are easily noticed. Would he like for me to move them?  He never responded, but my email left a record that this mark on my evaluation was incorrect and I had handled it professionally.  However, under the same administrator, a fellow veteran teacher was evaluated while presenting a lesson on interpreting figurative language. She asked students to find representations of figurative language that she had placed around the room and then interpret them.  The principal stated, in her evaluation, that this was a lower order-thinking, rote memory skill.  She waited and collected her data and scheduled an appointment. During the appointment, the principal changed the mark on her evaluation and stated that he didn’t know what figurative language was.

 Most, but not all, situations can be resolved with good communication.   Let your administrator know that you want to learn from this evaluation and make necessary improvements.  Follow up with a written summary of what you learned from the meeting and thank the principal for meeting with you.  Ask the principal to respond if you have any misinterpretations of the meeting or if they have a concern.  Three reasons for this: 1. You have written your interpretation of the meeting and any misunderstanding can be immediately clarified; 2. You have responded in a professional manner; and 3.  You have a “paper trail” in case your principal becomes defensive. 

Hopefully, you will never have to use all of these steps, but as the evaluation process changes, more teachers may see a need to respond.  One thing we can all learn from the evaluation process is how to continually be a learner.

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