A number of years ago, a parent called me to tell me that I had ruined her daughter’s fifth-grade year because our class didn’t have a Valentine’s Day party. In my defense, Valentine’s Day fell on the weekend that year and I did have an voluntary celebration for students who wanted to do so during recess that Friday. Nonetheless, this parent felt that because I didn’t use some of our academic time to hold an official party and her daughter decided not to give up outdoor recess to celebrate Valentine’s Day, I had made fifth-grade the worst year ever.
Early the next year, I ran into the same parent who told me that the middle school was wonderful for her daughter, who was getting straight A’s. The parent made it clear that this was a sign of how great the middle school was doing in educating her daughter. Or maybe it was the monthly assemblies complete with skits, songs, and lip-synched dance numbers that made it such a rewarding school year. Apparently, it never occurred to her that the academic focus of our classroom the previous year had contributed to her daughter doing so well as she started middle school.
This is the parent that comes to mind when people start talking about making parent feedback a large part of teacher evaluation. Every now and then I receive a nice card, email, or verbal comment from a parent letting me know that they are happy that I was their son or daughter’s teacher and I treasure every one. More often, it is the parent who has a complaint who takes the time to comment on the perceived failings of their child’s teacher.
What are the criteria by which parents would evaluate teachers? This parent would evaluate me based on the number of parties I had during the year. Would I receive a higher rating for a make-your-own-sundae party or popcorn and snacks? Given that parents aren’t in my classroom during the day, would they base their ratings on what their children told them? Maybe I should follow the Friday video and popcorn tradition of a colleague who was the most requested teacher for years? I would get great parent and student ratings, but would I be a better teacher?