Reflecting on Teacher Evaluation

Over the past five weeks in my VanderCook class, Teaching Music in a Common Core World, we have been working through the National Association for Music Educators (NAfME) Workbook, Building and Evaluating Effective Music Educators in the School Ensemble, as well as the new National Core Music Standards. The workbook and the process tie the NAfME expectations to the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching. As a conclusion to this part of the course, we were asked to reflect on the process with the following prompt:

Complete a comprehensive reflection paper. Include a recap of the concepts and strategies learned from the assignments that you completed over the last four weeks. This will fulfill part of the VanderCook College of Music exit assessment requirement. Take your time and thoroughly reflect on what we have covered over the last four weeks. This document needs to be worthy of 10% of your overall grade for the Teacher Evaluation unit of your grade.

Our school district uses the Danielson Framework to evaluate teachers over a three year period. We identify goals for student academic and behavior achievement at the district, building, professional learning community, and individual levels. To help us accomplish these goals, we devise individual learning goals and action steps that correlate to Iowa Teaching Standards and Danielson Components. We also identify indicators of progress that will show us and our evaluators how we and our students are working towards those goals. The two to five Danielson Components we identify in our individual academic and behavior goals are what our evaluators use during informal walkthroughs over the course of the evaluation period. In the final year of our evaluation, we must have collected enough evidence to demonstrate proficiency in all of the Iowa Teaching Standards. We also go through a formal observation that continues to use the Danielson Components.

I was first exposed to the Danielson Framework when I came to teach in Ankeny in 2013. My previous school district in Waterloo utilized the Robert Marzano teacher evaluation model. I entered both districts at a time when they were in the middle of piloting or implementing these evaluation programs. As such, I did not benefit from a time of moving through The Art and Science of Teaching (Marzano) or Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching (Danielson) with the other staff in my schools. I was forced to do my own professional learning around these models while being a new (or new to the district) teacher.

The process that we have taken through this course of taking a week to focus on each of the four domains and fleshing out one particular component within each of those domains has greatly deepened my understanding of the Danielson Framework and NAfME’s expectations for music educators within those components. I feel a lot more confident about my ability to complete my teacher evaluation, occurring next school year, in the proficient or distinguished categories of each of the components. Because of the use of NAfME’s expectations within each of the components, I also feel confident in my ability to advocate for my profession and how music fits in with other core classes. This will be quite useful if I ever teach somewhere outside of Ankeny. I now have a body of work and a core understanding of demonstrating good teaching in the context of a highly used teacher evaluation system.

Now that this part of the process is over, I find myself wanting to go back into my narratives, reflections, and worksheets to revise and improve the content I included. My understanding of the relevant information I provided grew over the course of the four weeks. I want to submit work for Domains 1-3 with the knowledge I had completing Domain 4 this week. There are specific components with which I would love to go more in-depth in an effort to better my teaching.

A specific example occurred during our work for Domain 2. I struggled to choose between studying Component 2c – Managing Classroom Procedures or Component 2e – Organizing Physical Space. Classroom management sparked my interest due to a book study I participated in with the Band Director’s Group on Facebook over the summer of 2013 around David Newell’s Book, Classroom Management in the Music Room. The organization of our band room hit at an excellent time during the school year. That particular week in my professional life involved parent-teacher conferences, auditions for our two high school jazz bands, the last week of marching band, the Senior Night football game, the IHSMA State Marching Band Festival, and hosting the Mid-Iowa Band Championships. With more time to study, I would have liked to spend more time with Component 2c to further my learning. I plan on using some time this semester to develop a narrative for this component outside of my other course work.

My administrators have been fascinated with the work we have been doing in this course. Our principal is quite intrigued about the work NAfME has done to provide music examples for the rubrics within the Danielson Components. My associate principal is a former band director from our district prior to the transition to a two high school feeder system. The assistant principal is a former instructional coach from within the district. All of them are very interested in the new national music standards as well as the NAfME workbook. We have been frequently meeting informally to discuss the content of the classwork.

The other four teachers in my professional learning community are also very interested in our work. Prior to the transition in 2013, every department in the district went through an accelerated curriculum review process. As part of that process, the team of K-12 music educators developed a list of power standards for elementary general music, 5th grade instrumental music, 6-8th grade instrumental and vocal music, and 9-12th grade instrumental and vocal music. Our PLC has worked to further define what these power standards look like for students on each instrument across grades 6-12. We are excited to see how the new national standards can help us continue this process before our next curriculum review.

These past four weeks have also indicated several places where I need to continue to grow my teaching:

  • As part of our vertical teaching model, I have been removed from teaching lessons to non-brass students. I need to continue to maintain and develop my knowledge and ability to work with woodwind and percussion students.
  • I believe the next step in our vertical teaching model for lessons is developing individual plans for our students growth from sixth through twelfth grade. Our current curriculum provides a one size fits all model that we are continue to expand for remediation and acceleration.
  • I need to be better at modeling the goals for my ensemble rehearsals the way I am modeling goals for my individual lessons. I need to better identify the skills my 10th Grade Concert Band needs and help them choose literature that will help them grow over the course of the school year.
  • Our PLC does an excellent job of assessment within the individual lessons. I need to get better at incorporating more formative assessment into my ensemble rehearsals. This ties in directly with the goals mentioned above. This also ties in to developing my questioning and discussion techniques further to encourage more critical thinking in both lessons and rehearsals.
  • We have discussed our students practice as a PLC. We need to identify more strategies to get our students practicing and doing it effectively.
  • I mentioned above my desire to implement strategies from the book study in regards to classroom management.
  • I need to record my rehearsals more in both audio and video. I also need to set aside time in my day to listen to and reflect on these recordings.
  • Our district is transitioning to a standards-based grading and reporting model. As a PLC we are constantly looking for better ways to record and communicate data.

To reiterate, this process has been immensely helpful in deepening my understanding of the Artistic Processes and the Danielson Framework. I am confident I have the knowledge and skills to have a successful evaluation within this model. I am also confident I could transition this knowledge and work into a different school district and evaluation model effectively. This process has helped me identify strengths and weaknesses in my teaching and has furthered a desire for growth in those areas of weakness. I am greatly looking forward to the work ahead!

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