Friday, January 31, 2014

TKES: A Fresh Perspective from an Aspiring Teacher Leader

TKES (Teacher Keys Evaluation System) is a new evaluation system that the state of Georgia is rolling out as part of the Race to the Top Initiative. 

Earlier this school year, I accepted a request from my administrators to be part of the piloting process. I like to be ahead of the curve so to speak, so I decided to dive in head first. I've spent several months studying TKES, and adhering to the rubric, always striving for exemplary marks by my administrators.

The rigor in TKES lies in the fact that to receive an exemplary mark, teachers must demonstrate teacher leadership in each particular performance standard being evaluated. They must prove through demonstration and documentation how they consistently helped to improve other teachers' performances in that area. The teacher must go above and beyond the call of duty to receive exemplary marks.
So far, I've personally received under TKES, exemplary marks in professionalism and differentiation of my instruction. I take this as a positive, and I strive to consistently demonstrate professionalism through my dress, speech, and preparedness.
I've also worked diligently to focus on differentiation this year. I constantly researched and sought out ways to create choice in the classroom. Through this I've discovered that students love choice. It's easy to put together one general lesson, but the students do not respond to that as much as the opportunity to have control over their learning. These discoveries only enhance my desire for a student centered classroom, and commitment to their learning.
How can all teachers benefit from TKES?
First, teachers must understand that we are in this together. It's easy for us to get a little competitive over test scores, and close off, keeping our tried and true strategies to ourselves. This is a tragedy in a sense, because we've spent too many waking hours and late nights not to share together! My hope is that TKES will inspire teachers to collaborate, and stay open. For example, as a student teacher, my fellow aspiring teacher friends and I would be texting all hours of the night, sharing pictures of what we were working on, excited about the day ahead. It was new. It was fun to discover together. I urge all teachers to rediscover their inner student teacher, reconnect, and share!
Secondly, TKES will deepen our instructional knowledge and pedagogy. Under TKES, teachers must submit documentation and upload it to the computer system. Items, such as lesson plans, differentiation documentation, notes,etc. can all be uploaded to provide evidence of proficient to exemplary teaching. This may seem like an overwhelming task, but as teachers of excellence, we should have these documentations in place if lessons are properly planned. It may help to push teachers to develop deeper lesson plans, always seeking that new strategy or method of differentiation to reach the students. As teachers, we should always be willing to provide proof of what we do in the classroom to denote true preparedness as a classroom teacher.
Finally, teachers seeking excellence, should bear in mind that we will not receive exemplary marks every time, and that is fine. We cannot possibly be teacher leaders in every standard. However, we can focus on two or three standards and hone our skills in that area, while remaining proficient in all other standards. This year, I decided to work more heavily on differentiated instruction. I've seen growth in my teaching due to research, and growth in my student's achievement and enthusiasm toward learning. I believe that the key strategy in TKES, is for teachers to focus on those one, two, or three standards in which to develop teacher leadership, and then to find systems via e-mail, social media, classroom visits, or meetings to share their knowledge. If all teachers chose a few things to lead on, and share, we could thrive as an educational community.


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