My first year of teaching, I got the following comment on my evaluation, completed by my old-school French department head: "Alicia makes good use of the blackboard." She had other positive feedback for me, but that is the one piece I never forgot - though I wasn't even sure what it meant.
Her critical feedback was that I needed to prepare materials ahead of time. Though I was pretty organized, on the day of my scheduled observation, I could not get the VCR (yes, we are talking in the 90's) to work for the video clip I was going to show as part of my lesson. This was probably the most useful piece of feedback I have gotten in my 20 years of teaching. After that I made sure to be extra prepared; kids know when their teachers are winging it, I think - unless you get really good at winging it. Also, most teachers learn to be prepared, but also flexible when they need to be.
Years later, I find that I actually appreciate Madame's feedback more than I would have imagined - both the bad and the good. In fact, it is a lot more helpful than our current educator's evaluation system, implemented state-wide. The online system we use is ironically called "Oasys: My Learning Plan". Far from an oasis, it is a confusing and dark abyss of sections in which to put your goals, progress, and artifacts. Your evaluator then pops into your class for 3 ten minute sessions throughout the year, and evaluates you based on that and your "artifacts". I find this system highly UN-useful for my teaching practice.
In our current system, my recent class field trip to the zoo can't be "uploaded" or placed into any category. Even so, this was one of the best field trips I have taken with students: it was easy (ish) to plan, cheap, fun, educational, and included free play time. The weather was great, no one complained, and the kids were in a good mood - and they learned. Under the current system, no value is places on this sort of teaching moment and the effort that it takes to plan it. Yet, my student who had never been to the zoo had a big smile on his face when we got there - and for me that was enough validation that I did something valuable for someone. Where in our evaluation system is there room for this kind of qualitative data?
Enjoy the pictures of the awesome animals we saw. The students' favorites were the Capybara, the Bobcat, and the tortoise.