How to Survive a Poor Teacher Evaluation

When you receive a poor teacher evaluation, it can be easy to be really hard on yourself and think the worst. However, this happens more often than you might think and might have even happened for reasons outside of your control.

When you receive a poor teacher evaluation, it is important to remember that this happens to nearly every teacher and that it is not the end of the world. Remember to stay calm and take in the comments from your evaluator so that you can have an appropriate response or ways that you can improve. 

When you find yourself in this situation as a teacher, it is important to have an appropriate and professional response. There are many reasons that you might receive a poor evaluation. We will go over some of these situations so that you can determine if any apply in your situation. Keep reading for some tips on what you can do in the short, medium, and long term to make sure you handle a poor evaluation well. 

Reasons You Might Receive a Poor Evaluation

Most teachers will receive what they believe is an unfair evaluation at least once in their career. Whether it is deserved or not, this is sure to happen at some point. Rather than being surprised by the negative evaluation, it is best to be prepared for it so that you can: 

  • Properly react 
  • Learn from the experience 
  • Plan for future evaluations 

There are many reasons that you might receive a poor evaluation that has nothing to do with your teaching. At the end of the day, teacher evaluation methods are not perfect. Evaluators are only observing a fraction of the time you have with your students. It can be difficult to accurately represent you and your classroom from short, random evaluations.

Some reasons outside of your control that you might receive a poor evaluation include:

  • Your students acted out
  • The supervisor was in a bad mood or frustrated about something else
  • The supervisor wasn’t there long enough to grasp the whole lesson
  • The supervisor saw the lesson through a different lens
  • The supervisor is not familiar with the subject you teach
  • The grading rubric doesn’t fit your subject well

While most of these reasons are unfair and don’t reflect your talents as an educator, they can cause you to receive a poor evaluation. If you experienced one of these situations during your observation, your poor result might not be due to your teaching style and could be caused by an outside force.

It is also important to realize that there may be times that you deserve a poor evaluation, and that is okay, too. One of teacher evaluations’ intended purposes is for teachers to learn from them and improve moving forward. 

We will go over some of the short, medium, and long term actions that you should take after receiving a poor evaluation to help make sure that you are better prepared for next time. 

What To Do In The Short Term

What you do and how you react in the moments and hours after receiving a poor evaluation are crucial. The last thing that you want to do while in the moment is to react emotionally. If you act without thinking it through first in this situation, then you might come across as unprofessional, defensive, or accusatory. 

Take it from someone who knows. Even though I’m chronologically “mature” (read old) I STILL have a hard time not reacting in a visceral way. Anytime I’ve slipped and let my emotions do the talking it has never resulted in a positive outcome.

If you’re sitting across from your supervisor in a post-observation conference when you see your evaluation for the first time and feel yourself losing control over your emotions, get the hell out of there. “Ms. I-hate-you-right-now — I mean Ms. Jones, this evaluation has taken me by surprise. I I really need to digest it on my own before engaging in a meaningful discourse. Can we reschedule this meeting for a later date?”

A good idea might be to mentally practice what you’re going to say in the event of a negative report ahead of time. That way, when you’re in the heat of the moment you don’t have to think, just blurt out what you rehearsed. 

This reaction must stay on the inside

Stay Calm and Don’t React Right Away

In the moments and hours following a poor evaluation, it is important that you stay calm. You will likely feel hurt, embarrassed, and sad about the situation, but the most professional way to handle it is not to let it get to you. Try just to accept the result and go about your day as usual. 

“You might want to vent to a colleague about the situation, especially if you feel you had an unfair evaluation. Don’t do this.”

I know, you’re not a robot that can turn off your feelings with a switch. Here’s what I do when something is upsetting me and I have to keep teaching: I mentally take the topic and place it in a paper bag. It’s a brown paper bag, like a lunch bag. Then I close it tightly, folding the top over and over. I place the bag in my desk drawer. Finally, I choose a time when I can open the bag and let the issue out. May sound dumb, but it works for me:)

You will likely want to have a slight breakdown or cry session. This is completely normal. Just wait until you have some privacy to let your emotions run in this way. You might want to vent to a colleague about the situation, especially if you feel you had an unfair evaluation. Don’t do this. Give yourself time to digest the results and think about whether they were truly deserved or not. 

Once you have time to cool down, you might realize that there were some things that you could have done differently to get a better result. It is best not to talk bad about the evaluator to colleagues at all, especially not when you might be having an emotional response to the situation. 

Take Notes During the Observation Review

Following your observation period, you will likely have a review with your evaluator. This is when you might hear that you didn’t perform very well. Instead of arguing with the evaluator or trying to make your case, take notes on what they have to say. While you might not agree with what they are saying, now is not the time to fight them on it. 

Make sure you take accurate notes to capture what your evaluator has to say about your teaching observation. You will just need to stick it out through this review and take accurate notes to review later. Once the review is over, put the notes away for a while and try not to think about them.

You will have time in the next few days to review what your evaluator had to say, think back about the lesson they observed, and develop an appropriate way to respond. This is the best and most professional course of action. 

Be Kind to Yourself

In these kinds of situations, it can be really easy to beat yourself up. It is extremely important to your mental health and success of moving forward as a teacher for you to be kind to yourself. Take a night to yourself for some self-care, where you don’t even think about the evaluation. You can simply put it away for the night or even for a few days. You will eventually have to come back to it, but you can put it out of your mind for the moment. 

During this time, it is important that you remind and reassure yourself that you are a good teacher. Think about the successes of your students and how you have positively impacted their lives. One negative evaluation does not define you as a teacher, and the observation of one class on one day does not accurately represent how your classroom operates on a daily basis. 

While these evaluations are an important part of being a teacher, try not to let a negative result get to you too much.

What To Do After a Few Days

Now that you have reacted properly in the moments and hours following your poor evaluation result, you can use the next few days to formulate your next steps. During this time, in the days following your evaluation, is when you can decide if you want to fight the results due to what you feel is an unfair evaluation or if you will just accept the results and work to do better next time.

Review the Observation and Comments

Now that you have had time to get over the initial shock of your results, you can revisit your notes from the post-evaluation meeting and review the comments that you received. Find a time and place that is quiet for this review time. This will allow you to take in the feedback and reflect fully. Carefully read the comments and be open to the fact that something negative could be accurate. 

If your evaluator provided any recommendations or next steps as part of your observation, try to digest them and look at them from an objective point of view. While you may be upset about the results, the suggestions might be worthwhile and fair. 

When looking through these suggestions, try to think about how you might implement them in the classroom. Will these changes make your lesson run more smoothly or help get the point across better? You don’t necessarily have to implement all of the suggestions but try to consider how each of them would look in your classroom. This will help you to decide which suggestions to take.

Learn More About the Evaluator

Now that you have cooled down some, it might be appropriate to talk with your colleagues about the evaluator. Try to avoid complaining about them. Instead, try to figure out if they are known as a tough evaluator. If they are generally easy-going, then they might have been having a bad day, or your negative result was deserved. 

In talking with colleagues, you can also try to figure out what is important to the evaluator. If they are going into evaluations looking for a few specific criteria, then you can prepare better for the next time by focusing on improving those areas. 

If you know about your next evaluation ahead of time, you can also use this information to plan a lesson that you think will impress the evaluator. You can do this by picking an interesting or fun topic or by planning an educational game to play during class. 

Think About Next Steps

This is the time where you can take some action in response to your evaluation results. You have taken the time to calm down from your initial reaction, have carefully reviewed everything about the situation, and have started to determine if this was deserved or just a bad set of circumstances. With this information, you can make your next moves with a full understanding of the situation, and you can anticipate any reactions. 

There are a few options for you in terms of the next steps. If, after reviewing the information that you have, you find that you were at fault, your next steps will likely include implementing the recommendations from the evaluator or making a self-assessment to find areas of improvement. 

If you feel that your teaching was not well represented in the observation, you have a few options to move forward: 

  • You can send an email pushing back against the evaluation results. This is best if you have some evidence to show that the evaluation was unfair. 
  • You might want to ask for a re-do. If you are granted this second chance, be sure to prepare for it well to avoid this happening again.

At the end of the day, no matter which next steps you plan to follow, it is important to remind yourself again that you are a good teacher and that you can and will learn from this situation. Every step of the way, you need to be kind to yourself. 

What To Do In The Long Term

In the long term, you need to consider how this will affect your career. One poor evaluation will not ruin your teaching career unless you make it. As long as you have a good attitude about the situation and realize that you can learn from it, you will be fine. These suggestions for what to do in the long term will help to prevent another negative evaluation and can help guide the future of your teaching career. 

Implement Suggestions

During the observation, the evaluator likely provided some suggestions for changes you can make in your classroom. You will likely benefit from implementing these suggestions, especially if there were limited outside circumstances contributing to your negative review. This is not to say that you are a bad teacher, just that, as with any other profession, all teachers can improve, and some techniques can make a big difference. 

Another thing to consider is that the evaluator might be looking to see if you implemented their suggestions in their next observation. By implementing their recommendations, you are more likely to give them a sense of satisfaction. Also, if you happen to get another negative review from the same evaluator, you now have evidence to prove that you are trying to improve. 

You will be able to show their notes from the last review along with evidence that you implemented their suggestions. This might help prove that extenuating circumstances are resulting in your negative review. 

You might also benefit from doing a self-evaluation with some of the same criteria that caused your negative result throughout your career. This might help you determine if you are improving over time and whether you need to implement any other changes before your next evaluation. 

Be Proactive

Another way to prevent a negative review is to be proactive in scheduling your evaluation. You might want to invite your evaluator to review a specific class when you have an interesting topic or fun educational activity planned. This way, the evaluator can observe your class on a day when you know you and your class will be at your best. 

This is helpful for teachers of nearly any subject but can be especially helpful if you think that the evaluator doesn’t understand or like your subject. Having the evaluator come to assess your class when you have an exciting lesson planned can help the evaluator get excited about the subject and see the value in it. 

If you have a fun activity planned, it will help your observation score for the evaluator to see your students having fun while learning and immersed in the activity. It can be hard to give a negative review when you can see that students are engaged and learning. 

Consider Long-Term Options

Lastly, you might want to consider your long-term options. Unfortunately, there may just be a bad fit between you and the administration that can’t be improved. As long as you have tried everything to improve your relationship with the evaluator and implemented all suggestions, if you are still receiving negative evaluation results, it might be time to consider moving to a different school. 

This isn’t to say that you should change schools if you receive one negative evaluation. This should only be considered if you receive multiple negative evaluation results despite implementing all suggestions and doing everything in your power to improve. You will want to consider this choice carefully since it could damage your reputation and your relationship with your references.

Wrapping Things Up

Receiving a negative teacher evaluation can be hard to handle. You will likely be mad at yourself, sad about the result, and embarrassed about the whole situation. However, this happens to almost every single teacher at some point in their career. You will survive the situation, both personally and professionally, and you will come out the other side tougher and likely as a better teacher. 

Remember to stay calm, think carefully about your response, always try to improve, and above all, be kind to yourself. If you follow the advice in this guide, you will be sure to have an appropriate and professional response while taking steps to improve yourself and your teaching in the short, medium, and long term. You will get through this!  

Teach and Thrive

A Bronx, NY veteran high school social studies teacher who has learned most of what she has learned through trial and error and error and error.... and wants to save others that pain.

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