By Hannah Pawlak
You are a hardworking educator. You go to work every day, you come prepared, and then … you’re observed. Someone who doesn’t do the same job as you, who doesn’t see the same students every day, and who doesn’t have relevant context in your environment, comes to evaluate your proficiency in your job.
Sometimes, the experience is positive, self-reflective, and supportive while other times the experience is disheartening, frustrating, and feels unfair. Either way, your response to the evaluator’s comments is valuable.
Although the word “rebuttal” itself has a combative or negative connotation, in the case of educator evaluations this could not be further from the truth. Think of it like a response to the evaluator and the score. A rebuttal is not meant to be argumentative toward the evaluator, but rather to give a thoughtful reflection to accompany your evaluation. You may comment on aspects in which you both agree and disagree depending on your perception of your evaluation. Either way, these responses put your voice
Start with some positivity by acknowledging the pieces of the evaluation on which you both agree. Perhaps you want to thank the evaluator for their time, or maybe you received some praise you feel warrants a comment.
Use evidence and documentation
If you’d like to comment on aspects of the evaluation with which you disagree, use evidence and documentation when pinpointing these areas. This, again, is not meant to be hostile, but rather meant to shed light on your point of view.
Be as reflective as possible. Maybe you tried a suggestion from a previous administrator that you’d like to comment upon. Maybe you tried a new academic strategy or engagement approach for your class that you want to point out. Perhaps even you agree with an administrative suggestion and would like to consider this an area for potential growth.
Conclude with your values
End with a few sentences that really embody you as an educator. Talk about how proud you are of your lessons, and how dedicated you are to your students. Talk about your growth potential or even something about you that is unique.
Ask your association for help
Never be afraid to ask for help if you are not sure what to say in writing your rebuttal. Find a trusted local association building rep who can guide you through the process.
Let your voice be heard and be proud of it. Ultimately, evaluations do not make you a terrific educator, but your reflection of your lessons can push your pedagogical practice to the next level. Your own opinion of your own teaching matters. Evaluations have the ability to really take an emotional toll on us—after all, we are human. Yet, no matter what the evaluative outcome, always know you are passionate, you are ever-learning, and you are enough.
Hannah Pawlak is the Local Evaluation Committee chair for the Highland Park Education Association, and a teacher at Highland Park High School. She represents Middlesex County on the NJEA Certification, Evaluation, and Tenure Committee. Pawlak is an NJEA organizing consultant. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.