While some people believe that teachers spend their summers lounging on the beach all day, the truth is that great educators are using much of their time away from school to revise their curriculum for the upcoming year. June and July are when educators attend conferences, plan new learning activities for their students, and reflect on ways they can improve their practice. In other words, summer isn’t just a break.
This is true for administrators, too.
Just as teachers spend the summer planning for their students, great administrators thoroughly prepare for the return of their colleagues. This includes ensuring that facilities are clean, courses are scheduled correctly in the student information system, and partnerships and resources are in place that can support teaching and learning.
So, what can administrators do during the summer to prepare for one of their chief responsibilities, evaluating staff, and providing actionable feedback?
1. Review state and district requirements for teacher evaluation.
Every state has a different approach to staff evaluations, and like so many aspects of the profession, requirements are frequently changing. Set aside an hour to review the observation and evaluation processes that are non-negotiable, and consider how you can make this process as meaningful and beneficial as possible.
2. Establish an observation and evaluation schedule.
Working with other evaluators in your district or building, establish an observation and evaluation schedule. Will you observe teachers once each quarter? Will these observations be announced or unannounced? Will new teachers receive more observations than veterans? How often will formal evaluations be provided? Answering these questions and taking the time to schedule these commitments will provide clarity and direction for the evaluation team at the start of the year.
3. Select the right tools.
As you consider which tools to use during your evaluation process, think about the ultimate goal: providing actionable feedback to teachers that empowers them to improve their practice. This means that the collection and rating of evidence should be transparent between the evaluator and the teacher, and a tool should serve as a platform for dialogue. What goals have been identified by the teacher for improvement? How can the administrator support achievement of these goals? What resources would the administrator like the teacher to review? What aspects of the observation merit further discussion? A great evaluations platform should allow the responses to these questions to be captured in one place.
4. Develop a communication plan.
Teachers sincerely appreciate when administrators tell them what’s coming up. The simple act of communicating the observation and evaluation schedule, except for unannounced observations, conveys that the administrator believes the evaluation process is important.
5. Invite feedback before the process begins.
Before the first set of observations occur, invite staff to share any thoughts or concerns they have about the process. Even highly effective teachers who are exceptional at self-reflection can be intimidated by the idea of an administrator visiting their room. Offering an optional before-school or after-school chat could avoid future frustration and increase mutual investment in the process.
6. Provide resources and learning opportunities.
Making teachers feel supported is crucial for effective administrators. What resources can you purchase or find that your teachers might find useful? How can you model instructional strategies during beginning-of-the-year staff meetings? Will teachers be provided a budget for self-directed professional development? As often as possible, find ways to provide resources that relate to each teacher’s areas for growth.
Administrators are responsible for a seemingly unending list of critical aspects of leading a school. Building the capacity of your colleagues is a worthy investment. By improving the skill and morale of your team, your job becomes much easier, more enjoyable, and more effective at helping everyone in the building reach their goals.