Whew!! I just walked out of my T-TESS pre-conference, and I feel much better about the process. Of course, I was stressed and worried about how it might go. I've been fixating on it for a while now. As many of our readers know, handling T-TESS in a non-core subject is hard.
There was no need to worry, though. It was pretty quick and painless. So here's what I learned from my meeting and how it can hopefully help you. Whether you're teaching high school theatre or elementary science, I think we've got some great ideas to help you through T-TESS meetings.
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Before your meeting, revisit the goals you originally set for yourself at the very beginning of the year. Nothing will make a meeting fail harder than not even knowing what you're meeting about!
So make sure you are familiar with the goals that you entered earlier, and be ready to discuss them. If you are like me, your goals were probably just 3-5 sentences of information. Be ready to elaborate on that and show your administrator how you intend to make each goal happen.
Maybe be ready with a short list of specific tactics that would help you succeed with that goal. For example, one of my goals was to continue to make efforts to recruit kids and maintain them in our theatre program. So, I was ready with a few examples.
- I will attend Junior High theatrical performances
- I will make myself visible at the JH and try to meet the kids
- I will bring down some of my upper level kids to visit with JH kiddos
- I will invite the JH kids to our HS shows, etc.
That way it really looks to the administrator that you have thought about this and done your homework, and if they don’t totally buy into that particular goal, you have some examples of how you know you can make it work.
Here's the basic structure of your meeting: your administrator will read your goal aloud and then you will be able to discuss. If you have some examples, stories, and instances where you can improve, that might help get the conversation going. But, be prepared to accept some suggestions from your administrator.
Don’t take this personally. If they are a good administrator, they are seeking things to help you be successful. If it is a great suggestion, then agree and talk about how you are excited to try to implement that suggestion for your goal. If it is a suggestion that you don’t like or don’t think you can do, try not to be negative. Try to find a way to spin it around to make it work for yourself. Your administrator will be impressed that you are a problem-solver and are willing to work it out.
Another tip that I would give you is to set goals that touch on community outreach. I know you have already set your goals, BUT even with the example I gave of trying to recruit more junior high kids into the program, you could add community involvement into the discussion.
Because arts programs are not in the core pillars of curriculum, (unfortunately) we have to continually establish ourselves as a vital part of the school and community's culture. This is a fantastic goal to set for your arts department, as it has measurable tactics and is an altruistic approach to your program's development.
For example, maybe tell your administrator that you intend to post on Facebook to remind the community about shows and to bring their younger kids. Or maybe you can attend an event like the Christmas Band Concert and ask to say a little something to the community audience about the High School Fine Arts Programs. Perhaps your school choir will go caroling to nursing homes around town during the holidays. The options are endless.
Administrators LOVE when we reach out to the community.
One last thing that I think might be great to mention in your conference is anything that can help with your TEA Distinction Designation.
We were fortunate enough at my school this year to earn all seven stars, but we all know just how hard it will be to maintain that. I think it would be very beneficial for you to mention how you can take your class across the curriculum to help with the Academic Achievement section for ELA, Science, Social Studies, and Math.
We can all think of ways that we can teach our subject that could assist and enrich the core areas. You might also mention Closing Performance Gaps and for sure Postsecondary Readiness. We certainly can all gear our programs toward those goals. Administrators will love the fact that you are not only knowledgeable about your school’s Distinction Designation, but that you also have a plan to help obtain or maintain as many stars as possible for your school!
I hope these tips help you in preparing for your conference and give you the confidence to go in with lots of knowledge and plans for the future success of your classes, department, and the reaching of your goals.