I'm in my sixth year at FGS, which means that it's time once again for me to be evaluated.
I had yearly evaluations in years 1, 2, and 3, but after that one is presumed to be a good teacher and a good community member and so there is no yearly evaluation in years 4 and 5. Then we do it all again in year 6, but after that it happens only every six years. We have no tenure system and get annual contracts, so it's not like if you screw up badly in year 4 no one says anything about it until year 6, and I did have a friend/colleague who got gently but firmly pushed out in his fourth year just last spring. (He was a curmudgeon who disliked everyone in his department and wasn't shy about showing his feelings, and although I liked him very much there was no denying that he was a very difficult colleague; he wasn't denied a new contract, but the head of school and department head called him in last spring and said "we'd like to write you letters of rec so that you can look for another job where you will be happier." And he did in fact find another job and does seem happier this fall, although I think that his M.O. is to be happy for the first year and then start getting angry about the various problems that he has found. But I digress.)
I was a basketcase in my first year of evaluation, basically treating it as another tenure case, until my department head and another teacher separately sat me down and told me that I had to seriously calm down about the whole thing because obviously I was great and that this process should be a source of reassurance on that point rahter than of stress. And then I had a fabulous review. Very nice.
Same with the second-year review. Piece of cake, although I was still nervous beforehand.
The third-year review was much more difficult; everyone still thought I was fabulous, but simmering intra-departmental resentments reared their ugly head, and I wound up crying for almost the full hour of the review. But things resolved themselves, the dean was awesome, and it was still officially a great review even if it was pretty miserable to live through.
My sixth-year review this year is with the same department head and same dean as that miserable 3rd-year review, so it was interesting to read through the old blog posts linked to in the last paragraph and remember what a horrible season that was with regards to the department. But I'm in a very different season now, and I don't anticipate any of the same troubles (which doesn't mean that they won't arise after all or that I won't get a whole new set of troubles!). The department head is better at her job than she was three years ago, and I've learned to simply work around or try to ignore the ways in which she's still not good at her job, so we don't have nearly the same tensions that we did in my first few years at FGS. Mr. Z is still a quietly resentful and passive-aggressive colleague, but it doesn't really matter; I know not to trust him, and we're not even teaching any of the same courses this year and so don't have to collaborate at all, so his problems are not my problems. And the department as a whole gets along much better than in past years, and things are meandering along peacefully, and I have learned much better what I can try to accomplish/change in the department and what it's easier to just accept. The dean still loves me, and I think that my reputation at FGS has only grown, plus in the last three years I've single-handedly created the flourishing AP Comp program at the school, so it's really almost impossible for me to imagine this year's review's not going well.
Anyway, the point of this blog post was not to rehash ancient history but to say that I now have two come up with 3-5 specific goals that I want to work on this year. The way that FGS frames these reviews is that the school is trying to help us achieve our own goals, and so to that end we have to actually come up with goals. In my first couple of years these goals were pretty global, along the lines of "figure out how the hell to become a HS teacher," but now I have to change things up. The dean has asked me to come up with "fairly specific and attainable" goals "that are important to [me] at this point in [my] career."
Fortunately, I have two weeks to come up with this list, because quite frankly I'm kind of drawing a blank. I mean, I do want to keep on working on figuring out how to make being a teacher and a writer fit together better, but I'm not sure how to write that up as an "attainable" goal. And I've introduced a couple new-to-me assignments in my classes and am trying to be more consistent in providing students with writing models, so I can probably turn that into a goal somehow (although it feels a little bit like cheating to write as a goal for the year something I'm already doing this year). And maybe I could make it a goal to explore using my brand-new iPad and educational technology, even though I'd have to write that carefully so that the "attainable" result was simply the exploration rather than the adoption of any particular technology, since I'm not especially convinced that it's going to change my teaching all that much. Oh, and I know -- I could make it a goal for the year to incorporate Bard's IWT's writing-to-learn pedagogies into my classes, which, again, is something I'm already doing this year but do in fact want to keep on working on this year, and I've already talked with the dean about this and have her totally excited about the possibilities. So that would be four goals that I could probably do something with. I also rearranged the order of texts/units/skills/etc. in both courses I'm teaching; in the sophomore world lit course, I did this in partial conjunction with the other teachers, but I did raise the issue of rearranging and spearheaded the change, and in my own sections of the course I completely redid one unit and added a text; and in the AP Comp course, I did the re-thinking of the entire course on my own (obviously, since I'm the only one who teaches the course). Hmm, maybe I could even make those two courses two separate goals? And then maybe I could/should drop the goal about writing, because this is an evaluation of how I do my FGS job, which doesn't actually involve writing at all, and there's a part of me that wants to keep them separate, even though that's gotten complicated with writing the FGS history.
Okay, I think I have the rough draft for my annual goals! I guess I just needed to "talk" them through a little bit. Thanks for listening.
The evaluation itself is extremely flexible, especially in one's sixth year. It will probably involve having some colleagues observe my classes this year, and I'll write a self-evaluation at the end of the year, and that's probably all I'll really need to do before getting "certified" until my 12th year. I'm not worried.