To Go Forward, Look Back

Meaningful, authentic, and change-driving PD must continuously incorporate the input, reflection, and empowerment of the professional.

Photo of Jessica Hadid
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As teachers we log our students' growth. We look at the documented trajectories that result from their logged progress as crucial artifacts in their overall education. We send home updates quarterly, we file the updates, we send the trajectory to a new school if our student leaves us. The logged path documents their growth (at least in theory). This documented path is used to determine many things: suitability for colleges, disbursement of monies to support further education, job placement, even automobile insurance rates. In short, we place a high value on the documented paths of our students' growth. The documentation continues as far as their formal education. Then it ceases. The message would seem to be: Once you're finished with school you're finished with the important (and therefore documented) aspects of learning.

I'm in my fifth year of teaching. Learning is the lifeblood of my everyday pursuits as a teacher. My performance is highly dependent on what I learn, and how I learn it. The trajectory of my own learning is far more important now than it has ever been. But no documentation is taking place. Evaluations? Those pre-designed and orchestrated snapshots of my teaching? Once every few years, and tapering down to almost never. Labeling that collective lot of evaluations as "documentation of growth" seems preposterous.

It is wise to question both the authenticity and the effectiveness of our report card system in K-12, and of our evaluation system in teaching public school. What are the intended outcomes of these somewhat parallel systems? Do they need overhaul? What would the overhaul look like?

Documenting an authentic path of one's growth (or lack thereof, as is occasionally the case) seems essential to the overall health of the system for a number of reasons. The most important of those reasons is to empower the student or the teacher to consciously affect change where change is needed. A workable model for professional development, then, must place at its center the input, reflection, and empowerment of the professional. This reimagined model of professional development could then help shape the ways we evaluate our students and foster their development as citizens of the world. We are, after all, each a student and each a teacher. Should the systems by which we evaluate/promote our growth really be so divergent? 

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Photo of Sarah Lundy

You've put your finger on a significant gap in how we support teacher growth! I would love to imagine a few models (different paths for different teachers) that would allow us to do this substantively without adding more layers of red tape. You've got me thinking....

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