Arrgghh! Evaluation time again! I find the whole process of having my teaching performance evaluated so nerve-wracking and artificial. I worry beforehand about doing well; then I feel my evaluator cannot get a true picture of my long-term relationship with each class; and lastly, not much ever happens as a result of my evaluation. Any suggestions or subtle words of wisdom I can give to my director to make our time spent on evaluations more worthwhile? Do any instructors have successful experiences with performance evaluations they can share with me?

Angela Broderick, MA, Leawood, Kansas

Evaluations are a learning experience and are most productive when done in the spirit of continuous improvement. It’s good that you take the process seriously (keep in mind that you can take it seriously without letting it be nerve-wracking!). You’re also taking a positive step by accepting some responsibility for the outcome yourself instead of placing it all on your director. Feedback from another professional is always valuable, even if the other person doesn’t experience your class every time you teach.

Go prepared to your evaluation. Take your director specific questions that elicit what you want to learn, such as: “Which of my movements/patterns were clear, and which were confusing? Did you feel motivated by my teaching style? What do other instructors do that I could learn from? What was the best class you’ve ever taken, and what made it so?”

Finally, remember that the evaluation is a two-way process. Just as your director is evaluating you, you are evaluating her or him. Offer praise and constructive criticism, just as you would want those given to you. It’s easy to remember to let your director know the microphone doesn’t work consistently, but don’t forget to say you value the well-organized meetings or appreciate the fact that the phone list for substitutes is always kept current. If you would like to see a specific change—such as a pay raise or the introduction of a new class format—ask in a positive way what you can do to make this happen. Directors can’t always be Santa Claus, but they will appreciate your sincere interest in creating a better program.

Monica Turner, Columbus, Ohio

This is a tough one. If you have a good working relationship with your director and feel comfortable talking directly, say that your current system of evaluation makes you uncomfortable. Chances are it makes your participants feel the same way. Ask your director to join your class as a participant or at least to drop in from time to time with some regularity. Explain that coming for short bouts more frequently would give the director a better sense of how you teach your class, how you interact with the members over time, and how they interact with you.

I believe that to fairly evaluate my staff, I need to participate in their classes regularly throughout the year. I also talk regularly to participants about class likes and dislikes; these chats give me a feel for what is going on. Lastly, I pop into the studio from time to time to pick up or clean something, so I get a brief overview of the interaction teachers have with their participants. I don’t go to my instructors’ classes just once a year to evaluate them. I also don’t simply sit in the back of the room and watch the instructors, because that unnerves them.

If you would feel better having your director do more of what I do (or whatever would reduce your stress levels), you need to express that. Good luck!