End of the year. Assessment time. Whether you are a serious grader or believe tests are destroying young children’s ability to learn, we all have to take stock of whether or not our pupils are progressing or not.
But what about you? Who is assessing you? Are you doing the job? Is your methodology working?
My first formal performance review brought some fear and trepidation. But at the end, I walked out feeling great. I had been given formal criteria to demonstrate that I was being effective, meeting goals, and earning my salary. I was given a few suggestions as to steps I could take to improve in a couple of areas. I love feedback and goals, and I tend to “study” whatever I am doing at the moment in an attempt to know more.
The job I’m doing now is by far the most important I have ever done. Being a mother to the three human beings who most have my love and hopes for the future is enough. But I am their primary educator as well, schooling them and guiding them in preparation for the challenges they will face by coming of age in the 21st century. A little feedback on how I’m doing before it is done and too late would be great.
Fortunately, the first part of the best performance reviews, involves self-evaluation. Over the years, my reviews have affirmed what I know to be true: I am generally very aware of my weaknesses. Most of us know we are off a little.
You may know what you need to work on. But it is easy to become overwhelmed by our failures and miss our strengths. It is in our strengths where we find the resources to face difficult things with methods that work. Evaluation is an opportunity to get better at our most important tasks.
Not sure where to start? Ask questions that make sense to you. If you are able, ask someone who knows you well to give you honest feedback. Only do this if they can trust you not to punish their truthful evaluation.
Here are some questions I use:
Am I staying on mission? The central mission of our homeschool is to establish an atmosphere where learning is focused on discovering the truth about the world God has created in an atmosphere of rigor while making learning restful and fun. I struggle with the “restful and fun,” and part of my evaluation is to ask myself, “Was I open to wonder and whimsy?”
What is my motivation? Secondary to mission, I have to ask what motivates me to homeschool my children at this point in their lives. This helps me stay focused and realigns my other priorities.
Do I establish reasonable and worthy goals and plan effectively? Part of goal setting is not placing the bar out of reach but not keeping it too low either.
Do I execute my plan well and maintain productivity? The best laid plans…need to be implemented. Bumps are normal, but if your goals are out of reach, execution and productivity will falter.
How is my communication? This year, I discovered that I need to communicate certain concepts differently to my very different children. What worked with one led to blank looks and confusion from another. I have to evaluate my strengths as a communicator, while recognizing that this last year, I found many opportunities to grow.
How am I doing with my team? Teamwork makes me reconsider how I work with my spouse, my children, and any other educators in their life to form a cohesive whole. Integral to good teamwork is asking your teammates for help. In addition to the team directly working with my children, I have an educator friend who is a sounding board when I am not sure how to help a challenged learner or teach a difficult concept. I am slowly learning to ask for help sooner, rather than later.
Am I demonstrating leadership, professionalism, and integrity? This question asks if I’m consistently striving to live the virtues that I aspire to teach. I had to take Facebook off my phone this year because my kids called me on it. I would be checking my Facebook while trying to teach them a subject and lose my train of thought. Then I would tell them they couldn’t get on the computer until they had completed their school for the day. They pointed out my lack of integrity. Ouch!
If a “performance review” sends shivers up your spine, relax. Focus on reflecting not just on what went wrong, but on what went right. Evaluating yourself this way will also help you be better at evaluating the progress in your children. Then pat yourself on the back and treat yourself to a latte…in lieu of the raise you deserve.