Monday, February 16, 2009

Self Assessment and Self Protection

In my search through old papers I also unearthed the memo I wrote in protest for the Principal P.'s prohibition on using dictaphones and cameras (See Workshop Model Rules). I am posting this Memo that I wrote back in 2005 because it is interesting to see how many details get lost over time. It is very important to write everything down as soon as it happens.

May 2, 2005


TO: Principal P.
FROM: Moriah Untamed

On Wednesday, April 6, 2005 you called me into your office and told me that several students had complained that I had been taking snapshots of them while they were in science class. You asked me why I was taking photos. I answered that I was taking photos to show evidence of good work that my students and I do in the science classroom. You said that I couldn't take photos without the permission of the students' parents. I said that I would send out permission slips and photograph only those students who brought back signed parental consent slips. You refused to give me permission to photograph students even under those circumstances. I asked for permission to take photographs of the equipment setups that I was using in the classroom after the students had gone home. You refused to give me permission to take photographs in the school, even without students present. In fact you prohibited me from bringing a camera onto school premises.

I think your policy toward my use of snapshots is unreasonable because many photos have been taken by other members of the staff during the past several months without the parents' permission. For example, right outside my classroom there was (and still is) a bulletin board showcasing the mentor program in which many photos of students are displayed. This bulletin board shows the pride that the mentors and mentees have in their program. I am also proud of my students' work and its positive reflection on my teaching practice. I like to have snapshots of my students performing hands-on inquiry lessons for future reference.

I also think that this policy is unfair to me personally because you do not apply it to other staff members--especially the prohibition of all camera equipment on school premises. I would like to know why I am being treated differently than other staff members.

On April 8, 2005 you again called me into your office and told me that a few of my students were complaining that I was audiotaping them in the classrooom. I told you that I was using a dictaphone that had a very short range and could only record my voice. You asked me why I wanted to record my voice. I said that I wanted to listen to parts of my minilessons, and certain questions I asked and answers that I gave to my students. You asked me why I would want to record these things, and I told you that I could listen to the tapes after class and refine my explanations and questions. You said that the only way I could refine my teaching practice was for you, the principal, or an assistant principal or another teacher to tell me how to make it better. It was inconceivable to you that a teacher could improve herself through self assessment. You also stated that I did not know how to teach science through inquiry and that I always used textbooks and chalk and talk. I told you that on the contrary I teach science almost exclusively using inquiry methods and that I was alarmed that you should have such a false impression of my teaching techniques and abilities. Under the circumstances it seemed more necessary than ever that I accumulate evidence of my teaching ability that is not dependent on the opinion of one person or a small group of people. You said that you were the only person that could decide whether or not I was teaching science the right way. I disagreed and said that I would accumulate independent evidence of my teaching ability. You reiterated that I was prohibited from using a camera or a dictaphone. I said "fine" but that I would continue to accumulate evidence of my teaching practice. As I left the room I pulled the door shut behind me as you requested. I am used to shutting my classroom door, which has much more resistance than your door and I pulled too hard, which caused the door to slam. I did not slam the door intentionally.

I am aware that using a camera or dictaphone in the school would be insubordination on my part. However, it is possible to accumulate evidence of a teacher's professional practice without the use of a camera or a dictaphone and that is what I intend to do, and have been doing since our meeting.

I think that your prohibition of my use of a dictaphone is unreasonable. However, what is even more unreasonable is your opinion that a teacher cannot provide independent evidence of her teaching ability. Teaching is a multifaceted endeavor which can always be improved. There is no such thing as a perfect teacher. However, there is such a thing as a reflective teacher who is constantly refining her practice through self assessment as well as interaction with other educators.

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