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Shaundalyn Elliott's Diary
The First 180 Days


Shaundalyn Elliott, a recent college graduate, always dreamed of being a corporate lawyer. Her deep feelings of responsibility to the minority students in her hometown led her instead to a teaching position at her alma mater, an urban middle school in Montgomery, Alabama. Each week during this school year -- Shaundalyn's first year in the classroom -- she will share with Education World readers her thoughts and feelings about her first 180 days!

Shaundalyn's Diary: The Dreaded PDP!

Week 17

Getting back into the teaching mode proved to be a difficult transition after the recent extensive holiday break -- for me and my students. On our first day back, I decided to begin each period by reviewing my expectations for the coming semester. Hoping to avoid such classic excuses as "I forgot" or "I didn't know that," I used the same newsletter I had distributed to parents and students at the beginning of the school year.

Unfortunately, that review was all I had planned for the first day back, and I soon found that I had underestimated my time and under-planned my lesson! Since technically I was not finished with the literature unit and therefore not ready to begin the grammar unit, I found myself in a very awkward position. I decided to bridge the gap by giving students a combination of literature and grammar -- in the form of a pre-S.A.T. (Stanford Achievement Test) review. In this test, students are required to read various passages and answer questions based on what they read. The exercise is very similar to the real S.A.T. test that our school administers in March. In addition to serving as an active learning activity for the students, the test was an excellent instant lesson plan for me!

On Thursday, while on bus duty, I received a bit of startling information. The assistant principal told me that I was required to submit a Professional Development Plan (PDP), even though I am a first-year teacher. I was under the impression that I didn't have to complete one until my second year of teaching! I thanked her politely for the reminder and began to worry almost immediately.

The PDP, part of our school system's evaluation program, has three areas of focus -- professional development objectives, student achievement objectives, and personal professional objectives (for veteran teachers). During the evaluation summary conference that follows the observation process, three objectives within those areas of focus are identified, and the teacher concentrates on improving those areas during the next school year.

Most teachers, especially those of us in our first year, dread this portion of the evaluation process because it requires a great deal of discussion and planning. A substantial amount of proof is required to validate that each objective has been met, so the hardest part of the process is often formulating objectives that can be substantiated. Of course, then the proof process begins!

Veteran teachers usually work with new teachers to guide them through this process. Luckily, since I was a student here not so long ago, I am friendly with several of the veteran teachers here, and they have volunteered to help me. I have gratefully accepted!

This month will be a hectic one. In the coming weeks, another observation will be conducted, the remainder of the PDP will be submitted, and a structured interview will be scheduled. It seems that I am spending the vast majority of my spare time planning for success in the PDP!

For more information about teacher evaluations under the Alabama Professional Education Personnel Evaluation Program (PEPE), see Week 13 in Shaundalyn Elliott's Diary.

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Shaundalyn Elliot
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