In the first school district that employed me, parents were invited to evaluate teachers. Comments, suggestions, and even complaints noted on the input form were included in the end-of-the-year wrap up conversation/evaluation with the principal. As you might have guessed, many teachers dreaded sending out the forms, as it seemed only the parents on either side of the opinion spectrum were inclined to respond: parents thrilled with their child's year, and parents *ahem*, out for blood.
I'll admit, the first few years of teaching, I was overly sensitive to criticism. Even a kindly phrased suggestion felt like a stab through the heart, only because it reminded me that no matter my intent and effort, I could have done something better. Swallowing my pride and allowing myself some "be-kind-to-yourself" time (blotting away tears on occasion), I realized that no matter how well prepared I was after growing up a teacher's kid, having attended the schools that I did, and completing the teacher preparation program at my university, I didn't know it all. There's no way I could.
I found that my most successful students benefited not only from having spent time in my classroom, but reaped the rewards gleaned from the relationships that I had built with not only them but their families. Regular communication, an open-door policy, humor, tracking down the resources that parents asked for, and opportunities for parents to volunteer made it possible for me to really know my students, their needs, and their interests. Parents unfamiliar with our school curriculum and expectations were welcomed into the formal school culture and realized the part that they could play in their child's success.
I created a parent input form after leaving my first district so that I could continue to improve my teaching practice. I'm certainly no longer a novice teacher, but I have come to find that I'm only able to improve continually if I refrain from resting on my laurels. Self-improvement matters to me. Parents are invited to rate my communication, developmentally appropriate practice, our learning environment, and my partnership with their family. Completing the form is strictly voluntary and anonymous: parents don't have to sign the forms and may return them to the office without my knowledge. At the end of the week, I'll be given the forms to review so I can plan my summer professional development accordingly.
Yes, I take a deep breath before opening them. And then I read them, reflect upon the feedback, and use the information to do what I can to improve for my students' benefit.
The atta-girl comments help, and I'm happy to say that the majority of the tears I've shed over the years have fallen after reading the kindest praise. Suggestions I've been given or questions I've been asked have offered me direction and an appreciation for the diverse perceptions and expectations of the families with whom I work.
Here's what I send out:
Parent Input Form
Teacher: ________________ Year: 2009-2010
Please check the type of contact you have had with this teacher during the school year (check all that apply):
_____ Parent/Teacher Conferences
_____Open House/Know Your School Night
_____ Mid-Quarter Reports (Kindergarten Data Sheets)
_____ Telephone Conversations
_____ Notes to/from Teacher
Please indicate if you agree, disagree, or aren’t sure. The teacher:
____________ Facilitates, monitors and assesses student learning.
____________ Provides appropriate individual assistance to my child.
____________ Provides curriculum-based and developmentally appropriate homework.
____________ Maintains a classroom in which my child feels physically and emotionally safe.
____________ Is respectful of our family’s culture and the social expectations we have for our child.
____________Regularly communicates with me in a clear way about my child’s attendance, behavior, academic progress, and curriculum topics and objectives.
____________ Solicits feedback and welcomes my ideas.
____________ Responds to my concerns.
____________ Provides appropriate suggestions so that I can help my child at home.
How do you feel about parent involvement in teacher evaluation? Are there other areas where you would find parent feedback helpful? Feel free to contribute your thoughts, feelings and ideas in the comments section.