Thursday, March 15, 2012

Final Marzano Observation Observations

The Class after Observation Day: That flow state that had kept me present, focused and serene during my observation almost immediately gives way to giddiness, and I want to celebrate, to take a victory lap. I have had many, many exciting, rewarding classes, but having one with an Important Audience raises the stakes a bit. So, after a student presentation, we don’t accomplish much.

Post-Observation Conference: Since I can’t think of anything that went wrong, I don’t dread this at all, and it turns out I have no reason to. My observing supervisor is kind, reassuring, generous, complimentary. She tells me I’m a very good teacher, and I say to myself, “On many days, it sure doesn’t feel like I’m a very good teacher.” She tells me it’s obvious that I love teaching, and I say to myself that the days leading up to that class sure didn’t feel like love -- unless love makes you gloomy, angry, uncomfortable, apprehensive, fidgety, anxious, resentful and imposed upon. No, it felt more like the flu.
 As she went through page after page of forms she had to fill out for this thing, suddenly I felt very sorry for her. Thanks to Marzano and his boys, she spends hours and hours doing this.
Looking back, I’m mostly embarrassed and disappointed that I allowed myself to get so caught up in this thing. My first impulse, after all, was simply to ignore it and go on about my business. Call me a dreamy idealist and a  hopeless romantic, but I’ve always thought of teaching as a vocation, a calling, a cause, a mission, far too important to be disturbed by the whims of a hysterical, uninformed, misled electorate and a herd of legislators who are either too dense to pass my high-school classes or are downright wicked in their crass manipulation of the rhetorical fallacies they would’ve learned there.
I’ve learned, incidentally, that I’m not the only teacher with decades of experience who has gotten worked up over the whole thing and been embarrassed about it when it was over. From now on, I hope we’ll all have more faith in ourselves and our students and just go in there and get it done, maybe even forgetting the dates of our observations. And now, some bullet points, a.k.a, mini-rants:

      * The Marzano craze is a brief aberration and will soon go away. It has to.
* Meanwhile, at my school, the administrators are going out of their way to ease anxiety among the teachers and make this thing as painless as possible. I’m pretty sure it’s not like that everywhere. And I’m pretty sure that in many schools, this mess will increase the tension between teachers and administrators.
* If merit pay ever really gets to be a reality, it will likely increase tension and resentment among teachers. What if I don’t get merit pay and some colleague who doesn’t do jack does get it – not that I know of any such colleagues, I’m just saying. What if I get merit pay when all I have to deal with are highly motivated AP students with involved parents, while Ms. Fessmacher down the hall has a gang of hoodlums who can’t wait to get tossed out of the place? 
* If I were a new teacher this year, I’d probably need to be sedated.
* As I’ve said, I had a terrific class when I was observed, but I’ve also had terrific classes without being observed and I’ve had terrific classes when I was observed by someone not evaluating me. I can’t credit the Marzano plan for making me a better teacher that day.
* As I noted in an earlier posting, almost all teacher observations – if not all of them -- are inauthentic or fictional or atypical because of how an observer’s presence changes the dynamics of the classroom. An observer only sees how a teacher and his class perform when they are being observed. Without a SpyCam (I should’ve never given them this idea!), an observer can never see what a teacher and his class are like. An observer can only see a teacher act highly effectively.
* The Marzonian indicators serve only to increase the staged nature of this ordeal. No. 34, for example, is “Applying consequences for lack of adherence to rules and guidelines.” A desperate teacher may be tempted to talk a student into walking in late, for example, so the teacher can show off her skill at applying the consequences. And what if there are no incorrect answers to probe with students (No. 41)?
* It’s pretty sad that all these bulleted points are perfectly obvious, but the nice people who bought into the Marzano zaniness apparently never considered them.
* For a more eloquent and coherent response to a similar disastrous form of evaluation, check out the link below:


  1. Congratulations on passing your evaluation! I am glad that your admin team is supportive. Ours is, too, for the record, but the incredible disparity between evaluators is a very big deal. The Marzano Thing needs to stop, and now--it is engendering a homogeneity I find very disquieting.

    You're one of the reasons I'm a teacher now, and I still value the lessons I learned in your classes at Rollins.

    1. Thanks much for your comments. I remember enjoying your teaching in my class . . .I was astonished at how much you knew. You even tossed out, somewhere in there, the distance from Bristol to London! I agree w/ the homogeneity comment. It's like when students prepare for an exam only through study groups and they all make an 84. Way to knock the peaks off!