***Earlier this month, I wrote an article discussing professional development and how it is important for Jewish educators to take charge of it. The article laid out the different steps to take in order to create a personal professional development plan. If you haven’t read it yet, you can visit it here.***
Do you believe you’re the best educator you could be? Do you know what your strongest skills as an educator are, and do you know where you struggle the most? Answering these questions can be difficult, both because you may not yet know the answer, and because you might not like what the answers are. Never the less, knowing your strengths and weaknesses will only help you become the best educator you can be. If you want to improve and move forward in your career, the first step in professional development is to evaluate yourself. It is only by knowing where we are now that we can know where we must go in the future.
Whether it’s journaling at the end of the day or discussing how your day went with your spouse, chances are, you are already performing some form of self-evaluation. This may be enough for some teachers, but if you are working on building a detailed personal professional development plan, having a more structured self-assessment is an important tool. Below are a few thoughts on how you can conduct a self-assessment. These are just a few suggestions, so if you have your own ideas and methods, please share them below in the comments.
The Right Report Card
Just as effective report cards help to evaluate a student’s abilities and learning comprehension, making a detailed report card for yourself as an educator can also help guide you. Instead of making your own report card, it is best to find one that already exists so you don’t miss any focus areas that you might not have thought of on your own.
One place to find a “report card” could be your employer. The administration may already have a template for evaluations that they use. This evaluation template could be the perfect place for you to start, as it can show exactly what your institution considers important areas of focus. In some ways, it’s like getting the questions to a test beforehand.
However, not every institution has a formal evaluation system and this template might not be available for you to use as a report card. Fortunately, there are many resources online that can be used to help you. We’ve found a few assessments that you could use:
Read over these assessments and determine if they seem like they fit your needs as an educator, and if you have to, you can tweak them.
Giving Yourself an Honest Grade
With the guidance of your report card, you might be able to sit down and fill it out honestly without any special tools. The questions on the assessment are designed to make you think, and may be enough for some educators. However, if you find yourself struggling, there are other tools that can be used to help you get a better understanding of where you stand.
Depending on the level of your students, you can ask your students to help by having them evaluate you. Keeping in mind the age maturity level of the students, you can create a survey that will help you learn what you need to know for your evaluation. This can be in the form of an actual anonymous survey the students fill out at the end of the semester, or, after a lesson plan, you can ask the students to share their thoughts about the lesson. You might be surprised by how honest some children can be!
While definitely part of a much larger conversation, (whole essays and books can be dedicated to this issue), determining how well your students are achieving learning outcomes is very important when it comes to evaluating yourself as an educator. Are your students testing well? Do you see them internalizing your lessons and bringing it into their daily lives, or do you feel at times as if you are teaching to a wall with everything you say bouncing off of it Be honest; if you feel your students aren’t learning, there is a high likelihood that you need to change how you are approaching the lesson.
Peer and administrative evaluations, if available, can be a great tool to use when you need to perform to determine how well you are doing as an educator. If they are available, you can read the evaluation others have given before you fill out your report card. This will provide you with an objective and professional analysis of how well you are doing as an educator.
When you record your own voice, you’re always shocked to hear what comes out. Take a camera to class with you and allow yourself to be shocked by what you see. Maybe you rocked that lesson you were so nervous about, or maybe you’ll find that you don’t look at your students enough while teaching. By taking a camera to class and recording yourself, you get to see how you are performing from the outside, and you can focus your observations on you as an educator, rather than the lesson you were focused on in front of the classroom. You should do this a few times too; that way you can spot general trends and patterns in your teaching methods instead of focusing on just one lesson that may have been on an off day.
You can upgrade this tool by bringing a second camera to class with you, and allow that camera to be directed at the students. This way, you can also focus on your audience see how they react to your teaching.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to grading yourself is to be honest and objective. You can’t lie to yourself to protect your own feelings. This evaluation is going to be used to build your personal professional development plan, and for it to be effective you need to know the truth. If the puppet you’ve grown fond of using isn’t working, you must admit it to yourself and be willing to move onto another method to use in the classroom. Even if it goes against the image you had of yourself, if you find that you aren’t as engaging in front of the classroom as you once thought, or that maybe you haven’t been as prepared as you always assumed, then it needs to be written down in your report card so that you can think of ways to improve in the future.
This is why you should go beyond using a self-evaluation form by using one of the tools above, so that you can have an objective and honest analysis of yourself as an educator. It is also the reason why our final tip is essential to remember.
Don’t Take it Personally
It can hurt to discover new weaknesses, especially when that weakness may be in an area that we thought was one of our strengths. Instead, you should be proud that you were able to identify a weakness and admit it to yourself, because that is the first step in addressing it. You need to remember that you aren’t doing this evaluation to tear yourself apart; you’re doing it so that you can improve yourself. When you see that weakness that bothers you, you should ask yourself how you can fix it. Write the answer down, and you’ll find that you’re already on your way to the next stage of building a personal professional development plan.