As spring break rolls around, many of our methods teacher candidates will embark on their pre-student teaching experience – 10 days in a classroom writing lessons, teaching them, and assessing student learning, all under the lead of a classroom mentor teacher and a university supervisor. They will receive feedback on their performance in the classroom…and sometimes it can be hard to hear! Licensed teachers also have classroom observations completed by their administrators, and possibly their peers, and will receive feedback from them on ways to improve their teaching. No matter how long you’ve taught, we all have areas where we can improve! So how can we learn to take the ‘sting’ out of feedback and use it to grow as a reflective practitioner? Here are some ideas from Chapter 6 in Powerful Teaching:
Uh-oh, it’s time for ‘feedback’. Here’s how to listen to constructive criticism-and use it to your advantage. The following ideas have been adapted from “Uh-Oh, Your Boss Has “Feedback” in Glamour magazine, March 2014, p. 240, by Anna Maltby.
Having ‘the talk’ with your mentor teacher may send shivers down your spine, but here’s a secret: Research shows that people who are open to feedback adapt faster to changing roles and have more job satisfaction. “Someone who asks what they could be doing better appears more self-assured and open”, says Sheila Horn. “They seem committed to doing good work, which is good for anyone’s reputation.”
Of course, sometimes the feedback isn’t what you want to hear. Here are tips for dealing with feedback in a positive way.
1.) Know what kind of feedback, you’re getting. There are three types:
- Appreciation ( I noticed what you do in the classroom and I value your work);
- Coaching (here’s what you could be doing better in your teaching);
- Evaluation (here’s where you stand).
Most day-to-day feedback falls in the coaching category, but many people interpret those comments as a bigger-picture evaluation (your mentor teacher says ‘this part of your lesson plan needs work’ and you think it means ‘I am never going to pass this lab’), leaving you with the feeling that one mistake will be a career ender. Note to self: It’s not!
2.) Press ‘pause’ on your reaction. Negative feedback can sting, so your first instinct may be to look for ways that the feedback from your mentor teacher is wrong. Instead, take a deep breath and try to understand what your mentor is saying. One place to start – ask for clarification of generalizations. “You’re unprofessional” may be about how you are dressed or about how long you are taking for lunch. Rather than moving directly to panic-mode, get specifics.
3.) Make sure you understand the next step. To use feedback to your advantage, think to yourself, “Do I know what to do in order to follow my mentor’s advice?” In other words, ask what you have been doing that hasn’t been working and what you should do differently in the future. Find out exactly what the mentor is looking for and if possible, whether there is an example of this that is done very well. You’ll want next steps with positive feedback as well, so if at your next review your mentor says you’ve been doing a great job, ask about additional responsibilities you could take on in the classroom that would help you grow.
4.) Don’t supersize it. If someone says something negative about us, we take it to mean that they think everything about us is bad. The feedback you’re getting is probably about a specific action or a specific time, it doesn’t mean that your mentor thinks you’re a terrible teacher. Take a breath and listen carefully.
Maltby, A. (March 2014). Uh-oh, your boss has “feedback”. Glamour, 240.
(This is an excerpt from Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter’s POWERFUL F Chapter in our book POWERFUL Teaching co-authored by Dr. Wendy Schoolmeester, Dr. Sonya Vierstraete, Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter, and Dr. Mary Risacher. The book is available at Kendall-Hunt Publishing: https://he.kendallhunt.com/product/powerful-teaching).