Teachers: We're In It For The Outcomes
Recently, a teacher friend posted this on Facebook:
“Teachers – we’re not in it for the income, we’re in it for the outcome.”
After a long, hard week, it was just the sort of
cliché I needed to read, “like,” and re-post. I needed to remind myself of my
purpose in this complex profession.
My week had included a
full-day training for teachers and principals from twelve schools in our
district. Representatives from these schools volunteered to be involved in an
internal pilot of SB 191, the new teacher
evaluation system slated for statewide implementation in 2014.
Using the district’s rubric, adapted and closely
aligned to the state’s version, we began to explore the
five quality standards related to professional practice. We examined more than
450 boxes organized under each standard.
We noted that evaluators might respond to each element with an answer ranging
from “not evident” to “exemplary.”
Teachers are perfectionists by nature. We know we
work in an environment that lends itself to imperfections – we will never have
the “perfect classroom environment,” “perfect lesson,” “perfect assessment,”
“perfect resource,” or “perfect combination” of students. But it doesn’t stop
us from trying to reach a utopian state in our practice.
After all, we’re in it for the outcomes.
So, it was mildly disconcerting to see so many
boxes that would need to be checked to be “exemplary,” or even “accomplished”
or “proficient.” Most teachers I know, myself included, want to be exemplary.
And I get it – it shouldn’t be easy.
Over the next 24 hours, I went from brainstorming about
how to demonstrate exemplary teaching… to worrying that brainstorming about how
to demonstrate exemplary teaching might actually be taking time and energy away
from the seventy adolescents I was supposed to be planning for, evaluating,
conferring with and supporting.
Then I had a realization.
As daunting and comprehensive as the tool appears, it
will never include enough boxes. It will never be able to truly measure the
outcomes of an exemplary teacher, especially within a given year of his or her
Our outcomes will always outsize the rubric.
The day following the training, I agreed to meet a
former student for coffee after school. As her sixth grade teacher six years
ago, I had promised to support her class with the transition between high
school and college if they looked me up their senior year.
Feyone, an exemplary
scholar, accomplished musician, and
aspiring bio-medical engineer, decided to take me up on my offer.
Feyone was already an extraordinary person six
years ago. And over a latte, her college admissions essay, and her resume, I
learned that she had become even more extraordinary. Currently ranked third in
her graduating class, Feyone is student body president, a lover of the arts, a survivor
of honors chemistry, and a person who is deeply committed to community service.
In a matter of months, when she chooses from among the scholarships stuffing
her mailbox, she will be a first generation college student on the campus of
Feyone is an outcome.
The pride and awe I feel from having played a
teeny, tiny part of her academic success will never be fully realized on an
evaluation rubric. But that’s irrelevant.
She is my evaluator.
I can’t take credit for Feyone’s success—although I
like to think that my colleagues and I have helped her along the way. But her accomplishments
also result from her hard work, disposition, aptitude, intellectual curiosity
and strategic choices. And I know for every Feyone I bump into at the grocery
store, there are a host of other students who are struggling. Who I could have
done more for.
I may never be “exemplary.” But my students will
They are the outcomes. And the reason I try every
day to be a little bit better.