At the conclusion of every semester, Rocking the Boat’s Job Skills apprentices get to sit down with their Program Director—and talk about nothing but themselves for an hour! Is it teenage lack of guile? Surplus ego? Actually, the context for these Socratic discourses is the apprentice Performance Evaluation, a 30 to 60 minute conversation that offers the ideal platform to contemplate what went well, what could have gone better, and how to proactively improve. “It takes a lot of time, but I love that each apprentice is given a chance to sit down and really be recognized for the progress they’ve made,” comments Liz Lindgren, the Director of Social Work and co-architect of the evaluation system, which features a written form along with the one-on-one feedback. The process is comparable to an annual review in the working world, with the added benefit that because the time frame is a short 13 weeks, most kids are able to identify very specifically moments they were proud of or, even more powerfully, issues that they struggled with and ultimately triumphed over. The three Job Skills Program Directors and Job Skills Social Worker have just wrapped up their fall evaluations, allowing apprentices to start the spring semester with a clear set of personal goals.
“Evaluations are such a practical tool for me as a Program Director interested in tracking the growth of the apprentices in my program. They clearly highlight, for both the apprentice and for me, which skills to focus on. Take Samantha, for example. She has always been hard working and extremely driven—for all intents and purposes very positive qualities. However, that drive tended to separate her from her co-workers and wasn’t helpful in propelling the entire group forward. Together we set a goal of fine tuning her leadership and collaborative skills. As Samantha learned to vary her approach and be more forgiving of others’ mistakes, her peers became more inclined to follow her lead and to set a high bar for themselves. Sam and I sat down together recently, for one of the last times before she heads off to college, and I was thrilled to let her know that her score—which was based on change, not excellence—is one that I’ve only ever given three times in my four-plus years at Rocking the Boat. What she has accomplished is extremely rare, not just in my program but all programs. It is a very big deal that she has done so well. And it’s documented, thanks to the evaluation.”
“Before my first evaluation, I was NERVOUS. I thought they were going to reprimand me, point out all my mistakes. But it turned out to be so incredible. For one thing, it became clear that Sam knows me really well. He had all these examples, good and bad, of things in my work from the semester that I hadn’t noticed. It was so helpful to hear, and got me to start being more self-aware. Then we look ahead and if I am worried about something new coming up that I haven’t done before, Stevi, my Social Worker, is there to reassure me. She says, “This is different, but nothing you can’t handle,” and I know she’s right. Things may be hard, things are bound to go wrong, but I can handle it.”