Chapter 1, Question 3: Which do you prefer, an external or internal evaluator? Why?
As a teacher I kind of chafed when I was evaluated by an administrator who was out-of-touch (district level) or not a content expert (principal level); both of these I considered “outside” evaluations, despite the fact that we were connected by district and school. I enjoyed evaluations from my subject-matter colleagues (“inside” evaluations), because I knew I would learn a lot from them. I trusted their understanding of the subject matter and of the issues pertinent to teaching English to high schoolers. I didn’t trust the “outsiders” (external evaluators) as much, and to be honest didn’t value their point of view as much. The school I taught at for six years, Gunn High School in Palo Alto, CA, followed an “internal evaluator” approach primarily (though not solely); most of my evaluations were done by my department chair.
Nonetheless, when I taught in Ellettsville, Indiana (Edgewood High School), I had the experience of having a department chair who was not responsible for evaluating me (the principal was). I developed a very strong working relationship with this teacher/department chair (by the name of Steve Brewer); we both taught sophomore English and so shared a lot of ideas and had many conversations about pedagogy, the worth of teaching grammar, etc. The ease of this relation was mostly due to Steve’s personality – he just invited intellectual conversation. But I’ve also wondered if the fact that he wasn’t my evaluator also made me feel more collegial towards him, in a way that might have been barred had he been evaluating me. So in this instance, having an “outside” evaluator (the principal) had the benefit of not causing strained relationships internally.
Although I preferred internal evaluations, I can definitely see the value of an external evaluator. Their perspective may be vital; when we’re looking at the trees we may miss the forest.