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Ever wish your students were more motivated? If you’re like most of us, you have tried an array of rewards and punishments to motivate kids. There’s only one problem: it doesn’t work. At least it doesn't work well enough. People (yes, even students) aren’t motivated from the outside so rewards and punishments only work to a point. We are internally motivated. That’s why it's essential to engage and inspire students to be motivated to succeed in school (and life.)

If you’re ready to move beyond the reward/punishment model and embrace a whole new way to understand motivation, I encourage you to come back regularly. It’s time to challenge the status quo and create schools and classrooms based on what really motivates behavior.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Teacher Evaluation: The Impact of Stress on a Veteran Educator

I recently received an e-mail from someone who had read an article I wrote entitled “Teacher Evaluation: Fear and Stress Are a Recipe for Disaster.”  With her permission, her e-mail to me appears below.

Before sharing her e-mail, I want to offer a few comments:

  • I learned in further correspondence with this teacher that she has eleven years experience. So this is solid evidence that even veteran, experienced teachers can be traumatized by draconian evaluation systems that do little to improve instruction and much to inhibit creativity.
  • She revealed that she taught in a public school in the American heartland. Unless her district is very different from almost every other district I have encountered across the USA, a teacher who has eleven years experience is unlikely to be dismissed because of a poor evaluation. (Aside: It’s debatable whether that’s a “sensible, fair, and just” practice, but the dismissal of veteran teachers is exceedingly rare.) If we take dismissal off the table, the purpose of evaluation is to provide teachers with useful feedback and information designed to enhance student learning. Building fear and stress into the process is counterproductive. (Note: The teacher who wrote to me teaches art. If there is any subject that relies on the creativity that is thwarted by stress and fear, it is art.)
  • In a follow-up e-mail to me, the teacher wrote, “Just the other day I spoke to one very fine teacher who I respect very much who told me she thought this new evaluation system is crazy and insane. She said it in such a funny way I had to laugh.” There’s something profoundly disturbing when teachers believe that dismissing, mocking, and generally ignoring administrative initiatives are the best courses of action! But that’s exactly what is happening in countless schools. Experienced, skilled, and caring teachers are deciding that the best way to deal with stressful teacher evaluations is to give them as little of their thought and attention as possible. When teachers believe that ignoring administrative initiatives actually improves their teaching – or at least keeps it from being hampered –  something is fundamentally wrong with the system.

Enough commentary. Here’s the e-mail I received last week:

I came across your article today, “Teacher Evaluation: Fear and Stress Are a Recipe for Disaster.”  It was my lunch hour and I was just searching, searching for anything on this subject. I am an Art Teacher at a Junior High School where we are now being put through this new evaluation system.   I have to tell you for myself, that things at this school have felt more like a communist dictatorship than a place of learning.  I have been on hyper alert while I teach my classes with the constant feeling that at any moment a panel of three men with clip boards could be walking in. I think what has alarmed me the most is this 17-page evaluation booklet that we are supposed to go by.  It was like reading Chinese.  I’d like to meet the people who wrote that and if I did, there is a chance I might find myself diving across the table heading for their necks.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing you is to tell you what a relief it was to come across your article. I thought I was the only one who has felt the way I have. The environment at my school has changed. It’s gotten very tense, and no one is talking about this. It’s almost as if everyone is afraid to say anything, so we find ourselves herded along like lost sheep who have lost their voices.

I’ve had to ask myself several times, “Is it me?”  Why isn’t any body else saying anything about this?  Oh, one teacher did.  She spoke up at a faculty meeting questioning the amount of stress this would be putting on all the teachers.  The principal talked right over her with a lecture about how we all need to “just play the game.”

Thank you for you time. 


As always, if you enjoyed this and found it useful, please send the link to your friends. Thanks.

Bob Sullo
PO Box 1336
Sandwich, MA 02563

For information about books by Bob Sullo and to schedule a keynote, workshop, or series for your school, agency, or parent group visit

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