by Dawn Bilbrey, an 8th grade ELA and US history teacher at Texico Middle School. She is a Teach Plus New Mexico Teaching Policy Fellowship alumna.
I’m an 8th grade English teacher which means that grading papers is a hallmark of my job. Early on in my career the amount of grading I had to manage was overwhelming.
Thankfully, I had a mentor teacher who taught me the art of rubrics. Her guidance helped me to better organize my grading practices and to better define my teaching practice. Using a rubric helps me to stay objective in my grading and eliminates wasted time, while providing my students with a roadmap for success to follow in their own projects.
Much like my students rely on the rubrics for my assignments, I have successfully used the rubric from NMTEACH (New Mexico’s teacher evaluation system) to help me design and organize my instruction and curriculum for the coming year in my classroom.
The rubric is straightforward and easy to understand; it outlines what I need to do to meet evaluation expectations. There are no secrets, it’s not difficult to understand, and it gives teachers like me a roadmap for meeting the goals set forth before them.
I’ve found that, since using the rubric as my guide, my entire organizational schema for the school year has improved―I’m more effective in all areas of my teaching because I have an outline to use in my preparation for a slew of tasks, from instructional design to classroom management to parent communication.
Having a regular evaluation is a necessary process in any career; without performance measures in place, individual growth stagnates and opportunities for mastery within the craft are minimized. This is understood across many fields, where data collected during a yearly performance evaluation serves as the basis for improvement and advancement.
In the educational arena, where we’re responsible for the development and growth of a generation of children, it is perhaps even more critical that all stakeholders are evaluated. If we truly want to elevate the profession of teaching to one viewed as masterful expertise, a yearly evaluation must be a part of the process. All educators, and more importantly, all students, deserve our best efforts to continually improve and grow as professionals.
Now, I understand the logic of the argument that an annual performance measurement causes anxiety for the teacher, just like I understand that additional effort and time are required by administrators during the evaluation. It is natural to feel nervous on evaluation day, not just for teachers but for most professionals. This is why having a strong rubric to guide performance expectations and take the subjectivity out of the process helps to make that anxiety much more manageable.
Over the last four years, understanding the teacher evaluation rubric has empowered me as an instructional leader. It has fostered many deep and meaningful conversations with my principal about the nature of instruction, leadership, and assessment. We have learned and grown together as educators through the use of this process.
I feel so much more in control of my evaluation results and value the rubric as an indispensable tool with which I can hone my craft and skill as a teacher. The knowledge of how to plan for, and then anticipate, my growth has eased my frustration and anxiety as a professional and grown my passion for teaching.
During this season of massive educational reform in our state, as policy makers consider the guidelines for a potential new evaluation system, I encourage them to consider the value of two things: the benefit to our statewide educational system of a yearly performance measure of all teachers, instructional support aides, and administrators, and the advantages of rubrics to define and drive performance.
Teachers are achievers. We like to excel. Give us the tools to empower us to achieve our best results.