February 3, 2020

Performance Evaluations, Planning and Governance

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What an action  packed week with 30 Singergia Christian Principals and Vice-Principals in the Dominican Republic; it was wonderful!

Performance Planning - "They just don’t like to get evaluated unless they know it’s going to be good” That was the first comment at our week long principal’s conference in the Dominican Republic. It sounds a bit like the rest of us when the boss decides to schedule a performance evaluation.

Teachers don’t exactly cherish the thought of being evaluated by their principal, their peers, let alone students or the parents they serve. Fear contributes to part of the hesitation. ‘No news is good news’. As a principal, the thought of conducting an assessment met with the same reaction.

But how else do we know how well we are doing in our chosen profession? Where do we get encouragement from; how do we know we are part of a robust learning community in the school; and, what does accountability look like? But more so, how do we improve and grow? Aren't passion and love for students enough? We’d all prefer to have our annual pay increment and be done with it.

Although using a traditional class visit by the principal forms the current evaluation of teachers in the Dominican, it didn’t seem to hit the mark as to whether teachers were ‘catching’ the  vision for Christ-centred education and understanding the tools the teachers needed to improve while being encouraged to succeed. The bar for quality teaching rises for Christian educators.

Essential to any assessment in a Christian setting is for the principal to first work with teachers to understand how to build a ‘Christian learning community’ within the school. Secondly, it was to give teachers the tools and resources to ‘self-reflect’ (formative assessment); and finally, is was to help them better understand how to bring the four elements of Christian teaching – classroom community, instruction (learning), planning and preparation, and professional responsibilities – within a ‘biblical framework’.

Understanding how to deploy these 4 elements within a biblical context becomes integral to the annual performance assessment cycle since it speaks to their identity and integrity as Christian educator within a larger community of learning.

By the end of the week, principals came to realize that most of their work for the annual teacher evaluation (summative assessment) had became so much easier – the work had already been done by the teacher’s own self- reflection. They began to see the responsibility of evaluation begins with the teacher – it begins the first day they stepped into the classroom.

Planning - It started last year with Christian school leaders discussing the benefits of long term planning for their schools. At first, it seemed like a stretch to think ‘strategic planning’ for a school for the next 5 years would make a difference. But each principal embraced the planning process and committed to involving the community in developing a written vision and plan for their own school over the next year.

Jeremiah 29:11 reveals that God has a wonderful plan for his people. Often we have no idea what His plan is for our life, let alone His plan for the people we work with or the institutions we teach within. Prayer and a shared understanding of His will allows us to transform ourselves and the world around us.e He H

Sometimes progress appears slow… but it does happen. We often hear it through feedback and the experiences we have on our school visits when returning to a place like the Dominican.

Upon arriving back at this year’s conference, 16 school leaders and vice-principals stood up and presented the plan they had worked on with parents, their teachers and the surrounding community over the last year.

The transformation was beginning…the passion and dedication to move ahead was even more exciting…God’s plan for them was taking hold. It’s as if the pen that wrote their plan used the same ‘ink well’ that our Lord’s fountain pen has used for His plan over the centuries. They talked about their shared strengths in bringing God and His gospel for Christian living His Hinto the lives of their students. They also discussed the challenges of schools filled to capacity in sometimes very cramped classrooms, students with behaviour issues, and parents unable to pay the tuition – to mention only a few. Some developed robust strategies to deal with the issues; some looked for answers to what sometimes appeared to be insurmountable challenges. The discussions were great, But all trusted in each other and in a Lord with His own ‘strategic’ plan for them and the schools they lead.

Governance – On Thursday, we switched gears to the topic of school governance. We had 46 school leaders gathered to grapple with the topic of healthy Board Governance models that encourage the involvement of community stakeholders to focus on the role of the board. This session had 30 leaders from our 16 partner (Sinergia) schools gather together with leadership from ACSI Caribe (3 schools).

During this collaborative day together, we considered the role of the board in directing and protecting the school’s mission and the role of the director. The discussions shifted to the importance of schools having policies and procedures in place. The day ended with several practical discussions which modeled the community governance in crafting clear policies. The feedback was very positive and the school leaders recognized these leaders are each other’s greatest asset.

As they discussed the challenges within the Dominican context, their interactions and exchange of ideas was the most fruitful and beneficial take-away.

 

Peter Meerveld (EduDeo Learning Leader – Performance Assessment and Strategic Planning)

Nathan Boersema (EduDeo Learning Leader - Governance)

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