As teachers, we are used to providing feedback to our students, but what about when we are at the receiving end?
Here are some strategies for dealing with feedback.
Who, what & why?
Before determining your response, determine three things:
- Who is giving you the feedback
- What they are responding to
When you understand these three elements of feedback, you’ll be better able to respond.
Feedback from your students
You probably don’t have to even ask for feedback from students! Middle schoolers are quick (and happy) to share their opinions about everything and anything!
However, feedback from your students is very valuable!
Consider asking your students to provide you with feedback throughout the year. This can be a simple process.
When students turn in a project, assignment, or test, ask them
- How do you feel about your work on this?
- Did you have enough time to complete the work/study?
- What else would you like me to know?
These simple questions are helpful for letting you know where your students are and how they feel.
I especially like question #3. Students will share a little bit of insight into what is going on in their lives. Of course, they may try to influence you by answering, “I worked really hard on this.” But by giving your students an opportunity to give you feedback, you are showing them that you value their insight and thoughts.
Feedback from parents
Have you ever received a flaming email from a parent?
These always surprise me. I know that sometimes parents are responding to the frustration at home. Perhaps their child doesn’t know how to complete an assignment, or there is too much homework.
However, here is my #1 rule for responding to angry parent emails:
If it’s threatening or truly frightening, be sure to let your administrator know. But otherwise, go old school — pick up the phone and call the parent.
Why this works (most of the time!):
Most of the time, people will blow up in an email and then, when they hear your (sweet) voice on the other end of the line, they will have calmed down.
It isn’t uncommon for them to even apologize!
During your phone call, you can clarify any misunderstandings or problems the parent may have. Be sure to take notes about what you discussed. You may want to even offer to email the parent back with your notes — so you both have a transcript of what was discussed.
Remember that an email lives forever! If you fire back your own angry response to a parent, you have no idea where that email is going to eventually land. A phone call will go miles to building (and repairing) relationships with parents.
From team members
If you are fortunate, you have an awesome teaching team that has your back!
If, however, you receive negative feedback from a team member or faculty member, consider the three questions posed at the start of this article:
- Who is giving you the feedback?
- What they are responding to?
Take a moment to consider these questions. They will almost always help you determine what happens next.
For example, you class is crazy when they are dismissed to go to lunch. They run into the lunchroom shouting and generally act like they’ve been released from a 100-year imprisonment. The lunch monitor pulls you aside and tells you that your students need to shape up.
You can quickly see the frustration the lunch monitor is experiencing. No one is paid enough to put up with antics like this. (Any other duty besides lunchroom for me, please! ?)
Of course, you don’t think it’s all your fault.
However, what can you do to help alleviate the problem? Is it something in your power? Can you walk to the lunchroom with your class or stagger dismissal?
What about from a team member? This is feedback that’s a little closer to home.
Again, apply the three questions. If it is legit feedback, what can you do to alleviate the problem? Sometimes an apology and being more sensitive is all that’s needed.
Feedback from your principal
Here is feedback you don’t want to ignore!
When your boss tells you that you need to post assignments online, turn in attendance, update grades weekly, or write standards on the board — do it!
You know this, though.
But sometimes your principal may not know the full story, so be sure to speak up for yourself. Perhaps there is something going on that your principal needs to know — share it.
Build a bond with your principal so that she can support you. Remember that you are both working on the same goals — the education of your students.
From your family
Again, this is feedback you definitely don’t want to ignore.
If your spouse tells you that you spend more time grading papers than talking to him or her, you might want to put down that red pen!
Sometimes feedback from your family is subtle. So it might be helpful to build time into your schedule for family events. Even just a Saturday morning trip to the coffee shop is an opportunity to chat and catch up.
Teaching is hard work. It can be all consuming! Don’t forget that your family needs you as much as your students do — probably MORE!
It’s such a temptation to put your students first, but don’t forget your precious family!
If your family is making noise about how busy you are with school or how much time you spend on school, take a step back.
Is it legit?
Probably the easiest thing for us to do when we receive negative feedback is to bristle and think that it’s wrong.
Go back to question #3 at the top of this post! Understanding why someone is giving you negative feedback is so helpful in understanding if that feedback is legit.
No one is perfect. Consider if perhaps you do need to change or adjust your teaching or classroom management skills in response to the feedback you’ve received.
And, finally, try to thicken your skin. You cannot be a teacher and not have someone criticize you — just take a look at the news and you can see that’s true! Teachers are always taking the blame for something!
Don’t take the feedback personally… use those three questions to understand, improve as a teacher, and grow as a human.
What tips did I forget? Let me know (heehee! send feedback!!)