What Is My Principal Really Looking for in my Summative?

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It’s that time of year where many educators (myself included) are preparing to meet with their administrator for the glorious summative meeting.  Throughout my career, I’ve experienced a wide variety of these that have been anything from a short five-minute conversation to an hour-long meeting where I was required to bring a binder of evidence and plan to talk about my data for at least half of it.

Even when I received a lot of direction for what to prepare for, I never really felt like I knew what I’d be walking into other than some sort of rating at the end along with information on whether I’d be hired back for the following year.  Now that I’m on the other side of the fence so to speak I thought I’d help out my fellow educators and tell a little bit about what many administrators are looking for when we meet to talk with you  at your summative.

A Reflective Conversation

One of the most important qualities an educator can have is being highly reflective.  At this meeting, we want to hear your thoughts on your teaching for the year, both positive and areas for growth.  My assistant principal and I ask our teachers to come prepared to talk about examples of their strengths as well as areas for growth, favorite lessons this year, a student who has grown the most, a student who continues to be a concern, and progress towards the goals they set at the beginning of the year.  We don’t expect a portfolio, but we do want to have an in-depth conversation about the reasons why our teachers chose the examples they brought.  This allows us to see how they reflect on their practice as well as gives us an opportunity to talk about ways we can support them if they need it.  (p.s. Tying in the examples you give to the school goals or vision is an excellent strategy!)

A Celebration

A summative meeting is definitely a place for a celebration!  Even though the meetings typically take place 2/3 of the year through, there are plenty of examples of great things happening in classrooms.  To prepare for the meeting, my assistant principal and I write a narrative with specific examples from each domain.  At the meeting we share this with our teachers in a more casual conversational format.  Be prepared to smile as your administrator shares all of the good stuff with you! It’s wonderful being able to share specific examples of things our teachers do really well. 

An Opportunity to Grow

In addition to celebrating you, expect some feedback from your administrator regarding your practice.  When I asked my school leadership team what they wanted in the summative meeting, the most common trend was that applicable and actionable feedback was most important to them.  Because of this feedback, as I prepare for the meeting I always have the Danielson components in front of me as well as notes from my visits to my teachers’ classrooms throughout the year.  I then write up a few specific ideas for the teacher that will elevate the work they are already doing.  Your administrator will probably want to know your thoughts on their ideas so think about how you might implement their idea or questions you have regarding their feedback.  The feedback portion is another way to demonstrate that you are a reflective educator who considers growth an important part of teaching.  

Feedback for Me

I view this meeting as an opportunity for my own growth as well so I always end the meeting with an opportunity for my teachers to give feedback and ask questions.  This helps me to get better at my job as well as understand the needs of the building that I might not have considered.  Even if your administrator does not directly ask for it, I recommend coming to your meeting prepared to share ideas you have.  


I know that many people worry about the summative meeting because it’s where educators receive their rating and if untenured, communication about whether they’ll be back next year.   This definitely is a component of the meeting, but for my admin team at least, it’s not the focus.  Our greatest goal is to get to know our teachers and students best.  As much as we try to be in classrooms, we don’t always catch some of the things in the highlight reel or things that we could help with.  Summative meetings are an opportunity for us to see more of the good and the work being done in classrooms as well as continue to grow through reflection.  

If you are currently preparing for a summative meeting, please remember, it’s all about being able to brag a little, reflect a little and impact the culture of the building through your feedback.  Walk in proud, prepared to share all of the amazing stuff you’ve been doing!  Your administrator is looking forward to getting to celebrate with you!

 

  

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