Last fall, speech supervisors received training on observations and lesson plans from the city’s Office of Labor Relations (OLR). At that training we discussed the process by which speech supervisors evaluate us.
The training may have resulted from the UFT speech chapter’s concerns involving the use of rubrics to evaluate and rate speech providers. We had raised the issue that several speech supervisors created their own rubrics and added “administrative information,” including SESIS encounter attendance and other paperwork items, in their observations. These items had nothing to do with the actual intervention plan or lesson that they were observing. OLR advised speech supervisors not to use these checklists or rubrics because they have not been negotiated with the UFT.
We continue to fall under the old system for teachers using Article 8J “teaching for the 21st century” language in the contract. Our evaluation system only uses S or U ratings for observations and year-end ratings. It had been reported to us that some supervisors have created new categories of ratings, and our chapter brought this to the grievance department, which addressed this with OLR.
According to our contract, observations should include a pre- and post-observation conference. This allows speech teachers to discuss and modify their lessons as needed and to get feedback. A pre-observation conference is an important teaching tool and should be done well before the actual observation, not moments before it. Speech teachers should request an individual pre-observation conference for all observations, in writing.
The actual lesson with students is crucial and it — not the intervention or lesson plan — should be the primary focus of the observation. All too often, we hear of supervisors rating a plan instead of reviewing the lesson itself. Sometimes their expectation of teaching every goal at every session is unrealistic. Our recent lesson plan arbitration win clearly states that the lesson plan is for the teacher’s use and may not be prescribed. Lesson plans are an important tool in the planning process and should be developed daily for your speech students. Collection of the lesson plans cannot be ritualized or mechanical, but lesson plans can be viewed by any administrator. Some of you have asked for suggested formats, and our chapter has put a few of our favorites on our chapter website. As a professional, you can modify them or change them in any way you feel is appropriate.
If you have a question about an observation that you have received, feel free to send it to us for discussion. We as a chapter must honor our own contractual language that we fought so hard to get. Questioning and discussing evaluations is your contractual right. By signing the observation, you acknowledge that you received it, but not that you agreed with it. This information is under our contact, Article 21A-5. If you want to respond to an observation, call us and we will guide you through the process.
If you are a tenured speech teacher, you may want to look into alternate performance options in lieu of your traditional observation under teaching for the 21st century. Many of you present to your peers during the year. This may be used as one of your formal observations with your speech supervisor’s agreement. You can also submit it to our Better Speech and Hearing Month competition. Untenured speech teachers who choose to present may use the presentation for their portfolios.