Tuesday, June 4, 2013


I've been married 28 years. But yesterday I got a new girlfriend. I'm not sure how I feel about her yet. We just met. It's an arranged relationship. She's kind of demanding, has high expectations, and requires significant attention. I don't think I'm in love her. I don't know her well enough. What I do know is that she is an important part of my life. I even told my wife about her. She understands, but I doubt my relationship with TESS will last nearly as long as my marriage.

TESS is the new Arkansas Teacher Evaluation and Support System established to provide standards for professional teaching. (Why it isn't called ATESS or ARTESS, I don't know. But, I have to admit, TESS makes for a better blog.) Like many states across the country, Arkansas decided that there needs to be a standardized method of evaluating, tracking and supporting teachers to hold us accountable, measure growth and remediate deficiencies - just like there is for students.

TESS lists 4 domains that encompass 22 components. She is very specific in how teaching is supposed to look. She  gives examples of critical attributes. She knows what she wants to hear. She keeps score. Most of what she desires are things teachers should know and be able to do without being told. I don't have a problem with her in that respect. I'm pretty sure I can meet most of her demands and keep her happy.

What may doom our relationship from the start is the lack of recognition of the role creativity and innovation play in teaching. Of the 22 components in the framework, there is not one mention of innovation, creativity or collaboration. Not one. Zero. "This is what I want," she says. "Do what I say and we'll get along just fine." What fun is a relationship with out some creativity or a little novelty now and then?

Word cloud from TESS Domains and Components
Ordinarily, starting a relationship with another woman is risky, especially a woman as demanding as TESS. Got to be secretive, create a diversion, and keep your story straight so people won't find out. Not a problem here. TESS doesn't care about any of that. With her it's all about routine, conformity and following the guidelines. Who cares what the neighbors think - they're supposed to be doing the same thing.

It's not that I don't like TESS. I actually do. She is only looking out for my best interests. She wants me to succeed, grow and get help when necessary. Her focus and attention is on me, and isn't that the best part of a new relationship?

I really hope our relationship works out. TESS and I will be spending quite a bit of time together. I just don't think I love her.

This post inspired in part by J. Robinson.


  1. Is your word cloud shaped like the picture of Einstein with his tongue out? Or am I seeing things...