Look forward and don't focus on the negatives

30th October 2009 at 00:00
There is no reason to be afraid of performance reviews. Take ownership of the process and ensure you look forwards

Performance reviews can be stressful. Your teaching is scrutinised and there may be the added pressure of knowing that your future career depends on the outcome. It is unsurprising some teachers feel vulnerable.

Will Wale, from the training company Creative Education, says that a positive approach is vital if you want to take something meaningful from the process. "You can't afford to worry," says Mr Wale, an educational consultant. "You need to take ownership of your review, embrace it and welcome it as an opportunity to become a better teacher."

Begin by thinking about the targets you would set yourself and how you would like to develop as a teacher. That way, when you meet your reviewer you can steer the conversation towards the future rather than dwelling on the past.

"If your line manager is focusing on previous observations or missed targets then try to move things forwards," says Mr Wale. "Only 20 per cent of the process should be about what you have done in the past; 80 per cent should be about what you are going to do in the future, and what you will do differently."

One of the best things about the review process is that it gives you a chance to make a case for further training.

"Professional development and performance review should be closely linked," says Sue Kelly, a CPD co-ordinator at Millais School in West Sussex.

"Defining your strengths and weaknesses during review can give a real focus to your CPD, and when you agree targets with your line manager you should discuss the kind of support you might need to help you meet those goals."

But while it is fine to be upfront about training needs, you should not put yourself down or be unduly negative. And be sure to highlight your strengths and achievements.

Perhaps the trickiest part of the review process is learning to handle criticism. Teachers bring their personality to the job, and criticism of methods, however constructive, can feel like a personal attack. But never let a review meeting turn sour. If comments upset you, ask for time for reflection and have a further discussion at a later date. If you still don't agree with what has been said, then you have the right to appeal to the head.

Similarly, if you feel targets are unrealistic, you should not hesitate to say so. "I felt my line manager was deliberately setting me up to fail," says Debbie, a teacher in the North East. "In a way, it was a form of bullying. I approached the head, who was supportive, and we all got together and changed the wording to make it more realistic."

Obviously, it is better if you can avoid the need for mediation, but you also have to remember that reviews are significant. While heads can't refer to them directly when writing references, review statements inevitably shape their view of you as a teacher. So stand your ground.

Review tips

  • Schools must have a performance review policy. Read it so that you know how the cycle works.
  • Approach the review positively.
  • Use it to discuss trainingCPD needs.
  • Have informal meetings outside of the review process.
  • To appeal statements, write to the head within 10 days.

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