Grading Teachers Fairly

By Dr. Dorothy Rich
President, Home and School Institute

To judge whether a teacher is good, bad, or in between, you don’t need to be an expert on education.

As a teacher, I give parents clues on how to look at and grade my work when they visit my classroom.
That’s why I tell parents to visit their children’s school and classroom as soon as possible in the new school year.

Parents should schedule a visit and expect to spend a few hours in the classroom. They have to see the teacher and classroom in action to really know how to grade it.

Here are my basic clues for parents. You’ll have your own to add.

•Don’t be impressed with my bulletin boards or with whether the desks are neat and the room is quiet. Some of the best learning in my classroom goes on with students making noise or even laughing.

•Assess: Is there a feeling of security among the students? Do I encourage divergent opinions and answers, or am I “answer pulling,” looking for the exact one I have in mind?

•How do I treat “wrong” answers? Do I discard them? Do I try to point out reasons why one answer is better than another?

•How do I treat “difficult” children, and what do I define as “difficult.” It’s possible that your children, on their problem days, may get similar treatment.

•Look carefully at my personality and me. I need not be beautiful. Yet like all good teachers, I need to convey to students qualities of optimism and encouragement.

•Try to come back to see me more than once. If you come away pleased with what you’ve seen, tell me. We teachers need praise, too. If something upsets you, discuss it with me first.

•Try not to tear down teachers in front of your children. This doesn’t mean you need to whitewash the school and blame children when they come home complaining about something. Yet, agreeing with the children that teachers are “stupid” or “dull” defeats any good purposes.

•Watch out especially for phone conversations, when children can overhear parents complain about the “boring” homework they have been assigned. Instead talk to someone at the school, where it can do some good.

•For the best evaluation, look to your children. Are they interested in learning? Are they eager to go to school? When this is happening, the school year is good. When it isn’t, there is trouble…trouble that all of us – students, parents and teachers – need to pay attention to.

Dr. Dorothy Rich, founder and president of the nonprofit Home and School institute, is the creator of the trademarked MegaSkills programs for character and academic development used by the National Education Association and school districts in more than 4,000 schools.