Help Your Adminstrator Become a Better Evaluator

“Principals are often charged with evaluating an entire faculty, including the music staff, yet may have little music background. How can we help these administrators evaluate our programs and our competency as music educators?” asks Tom Tatton. He offers 12 ideas for the beleaguered evaluator:

1.  Clock the amount of time playing versus verbal instruction and activities such as tuning, passing out music, signing notes, discipline, etc.

70–75% playing time:  Excellent
65–69% playing time:  Good
60–64% playing time:  Fair

2.  Are the director’s comments are concise, instructive, and on point or rambling, pandering or patronizing? Positive feedback is always a plus, but should follow a task or a goal.

3.  How’s the pacing?  Too slow a pace creates a situation where musicians will visibly drift and lose interest. Too fast a pace and musicians will not be able to follow instructions.

4.  How quickly do the musicians stop and does the room quiet after the director stops directing?

5–10 seconds: Excellent
10–15 seconds: Good
15–20 seconds: Fair

[Note:  For Itzak Perlman, musicians stop within three seconds after he stops directing.]

5.  If the instruction is directed at a particular section, what are the other musicians doing? Are the rest of the musicians paying attention? while the director is working with another section knowing the director’s comments will affect how they will play their parts and thus fit into the whole?

6.  When verbal instruction is taking place to the entire ensemble or to a specific section, how many of the musicians are with the director and attentive?

7.  How much time does the director spend working with one section while others are waiting? (“I found I could spend 4 to 5 five minutes with a high school group, 3 or 4 minutes with a middle school group, and 2 to 3 minutes with an elementary ensemble before I began to sense problems,” says Tatton.)

8.  Are the director’s gestures appropriate to the music?  Loud boisterous music will require large gestures while quiet, serene passages require calm, smaller gestures. Facial expressions and body language should be appropriate to the music.

9.  Are the last-stand players as involved as the first-stand players?  The evaluator should take a look at the back of the string sections. Compare these players with the first-stand players as to posture, attention, and level of engagement.

10.  Is the atmosphere during the rehearsal conducive to creative music making/learning for all the musicians? An evaluator can quickly ascertain the relationship between the director and the musicians: professional (teacher-student), friends, or dictator. Youthful musicians appreciate being treated as young adults and talented musicians.

11.  Does the appearance of the rehearsal room promote positive learning?  Do the walls include smart-looking posters, charts, memorabilia, photos, and inspirational quotes from famous musicians? The appearance of the room most often indicates the level of pride and unity of a well-taught ensemble.

12.  Is the music library in order and well cared for, or is it a mess?  An evaluator can look around the room: Are scores and sets in use carefully arranged on a table or shelf, or are piles of music stacked willy-nilly in some disarray about the room?

These are some of the criteria to share with your evaluator. You might want to add others, edit or rearrange the above, making sure the suggested criteria fit your teaching style and manner.

Be proactive:  The more the principal knows about you and your program, the more meaningful will be the evaluations and possibly the more supportive your
principal will become!

Adapted from at article by MENC member Tom Tatton, “Helping Your Administrator to Become a Better Evaluator,” that originally appeared in the Winter 2009 issue of CMEA Magazine in California. Used with permission of CMEA editor Allen Petrinka.  For a copy of the complete article, contact the CMEA editor.

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Ella Wilcox, September 14, 2010, © National Association for Music Education