Since my yearly formal evaluation, I have been thinking about how I would want to be evaluated in a perfect world. 'A perfect world' is a phrase I use when I wish for things that could not possibly come true. Or can they?
I dug out some letters I have received over the fourteen years of my career. Each is from one of my students who, for one reason or another, felt the urge to write to me. I find that I, like many people, focus on the negative. I can remember every parent complaint, every talk with the principal or superintendent, every disgruntled so-and-so. I more often forget or push aside the compliments. Stupid, stupid, stupid. (I say that a lot!)
Below is a letter I received sometime in the last 14 years. For even more anonymity, I have left off the name of the student. I will say that this particular student is still in my community and is currently raising a child of his/her own. He/she has turned into a wonderful person who I am proud to say wrote this about me.
Dear Mrs. Mickelson,
I have been going to school for twelve years now, and I have not known a teacher with as much spirit, enthusiasm, and knowledge as you seem to possess. Though I have only had you for two classes and a summer session, I have never learned and been inspired by a teacher quite like you. You always made going to class fun, instead of my usual feeling, dreading English class.
I have picked up many habits from your teaching. One was that I have begun to be aware that if I take the time and really concentrate, I am able to write my reports with real profound meaning. I have also learned how to see what I was reading. I used to be able to just read what the author was saying. Now, I feel I can grasp the true meaning and hidden significance in each book.
Unlike my other teachers, you take the time to take explanations to a whole new level. You did not only explain what we could not understand, but you also added real depth to your words, making us think harder, and realize there was so much more to the words than just what was being read.
It was truly a great experience being in your class.
Letters like this one are the real evaluation. If you have one or hundreds, take them out regularly to remind yourself what you are capable of and why you do this crazy job. Students are the ones who should be doing our evaluations. They are the ones who really know. Period.