From the Field #2: From "Gotcha" to "Got Your Back": Lessening the Competition and Stress of Teacher Evaluations

From the Field #2:  Eklund Consultant Todd Battaglia has noticed a rise in stress levels in schools lately.  Here, he discusses one of the causes for educator stress and looks for your suggestions to help our educator community.

Recently, on the radio, I heard more than one advertisement for a Valentine’s Day special – roses, dinners, jewelry.  In these ads, it would be mentioned how someone could “win” Valentine’s Day.  Call me an old softie, but I have a hard time equating competition and love.  In Middle School, competing with another person for a particular date, yes. However, I thought that my wife and I were in this together.  Now I have to compete with her, not only for our 7-year old’s attention, but to “win” Valentine’s Day?  On top of this, last weekend was the Big Game.  The one day of the year that America not only revels in competition on the football field, but in who has the best snack tray, chip dip, and craft wing flavor.  Why must we always compete with each other?                            

When discussing staff culture with educators, I am hearing about a more competitive feel to adult relationships in schools.  The current state of education has many educators worried about their jobs much more than with the evaluation systems that were prevalent in the past.  Declining student numbers, new and confusing evaluation criteria, and heightened community expectations can all develop competition between staff members.  New evaluation models are designed to support teachers in their areas for growth and celebrate the great work done in and out of the classroom.  However, many have taken on a “gotcha” feel to the staff they are meant to support.  Administrations tell us that the educators should not feel that they are competing or being “put on the line,” but yet the perception still exists in many school buildings across the country.

This perception can have a divisive effect on staff culture, and it is important for staff and administration to be on the same page on the process and tone of staff evaluation.  Often times, Emotional Wellness committees can be a great resource in helping staff work through the new expectations and the realities of evaluations.  We have seen some wonderful, even fun, ways that school staff are lessening the stress and competitive vibes around evaluations. How do we go from "Gotcha" to "Got Your Back"?

How does your school address the stress of evaluations?

Please share in the comments.