Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Who Do You Trust, Your Principal or Your 3rd Graders?

In the midst of shame: The single best evaluation I ever received and more value from a child than I ever got from a supervisor.
My vote goes to the 3rd graders -- hands down. I know we are all having some fun at this provision in the John King dictum and given the understanding that King's motives are designed to degrade the teacher, I would trust the views of kids about me as a teacher even though it can be oh so easy to manipulate them, which was not beneath me. Don't all teachers do some manipulation? 

Teachers should be willing to learn from their kids. I always did listen to my kids  --- I tried very hard to have a comfortable environment in my class -- when you are in a self-contained classroom for 5 hours a day you better have. But I also know I had some arrogance as a teacher and maybe knowing they were evaluating me might have made me a tad more sensitive.

I was also arrogant enough to think that if a teacher did not have the support of their kids they must have lacked something (I think in today's times that may not be operative but depends on where you are and who is running your school.) I would say the same for parents and in fact I would love to see what parents think about me as a teacher and would probably learn a lot. One of my best evaluations came from the parent of the very best and smartest kid I ever had -- she went to Johns Hopkins in a 6 year medical program. A few years after she left my class I ran into mom (natch, a dream parent- single mom with 3 awesome kids) and her youngest on the subway and when it seemed possible I would have that child in my class the next year she seemed so happy. That made me happy -- an evaluation of sorts. But smart kids' parents are easy to please.

We hear a lot about the disruptive child but reality is that the overwhelming majority of kids are not disruptive.

I'll never forget one story where I learned one of my biggest lessons from a child. It was a Friday afternoon as a mass prep was ending and I went down to pick up my 6th grade class --- it was not the top class -- in the midst of auditorium chaos, with the AP (who I liked a lot) trying to get things organized. For some reason I was pissed at him that day and one of my girls did something innocuous but I reported her to the AP --- just to bug him (a nasty bit of personal pique on my part). And he hauled off screaming at the little girl, leading her to tears. I felt like shit, but nothing as bad as later that evening.

The phone rang and I heard sobbing. It was Beatriz -- "Why did you do that Mr. Scott?" I started to apologize. She hung up on me. Actually slammed down the phone. What a weekend in guilt hell. I tried to make it up to her for the rest of the school year and we ended up with a good relationship.

In the midst of shame, the single best evaluation I ever received and more value from a child than I ever got from a supervisor.


  1. As you say, King's intentions notwithstanding, if it's between the kids and Leadership Academy Bots, bring on the kids!

  2. In college, students rate their teachers. Good administrators look at the whole package and don't let a few outliers influence them. My best evaluations always came from kids.


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