604. Feedback

Lately, I’ve been giving some feedback to student teachers. I casually observe them for a few minutes a day – just enough to think of one appreciation and one suggestion. I only do it for student teachers who ask me to. Since I am not in a position to have power over them, they can really use my feedback (or not use it) as they see fit. Once in a while, I write a recommendation to include in a student teacher’s resume, but mostly, what I write for student teachers is solely for the purpose of helping them learn.
It doesn’t take long for me to think of one appreciation and one suggestion. Teaching is doing many things at the same time, and human beings are always doing some things well and doing some things that could be done better. I observe this way for about two minutes per day. Since I let student teachers know, ahead of time, that I’ll be writing one appreciation no matter how many problems I see, and one suggestion no matter how impressed I am, there’s no tendency for them to worry the way I know one can worry about observations.
And the observations I write take up about six lines on a page – three lines of appreciation and three lines of suggestion. It’s not a lot. True, it adds up; if I write an observation per day for a week, by Friday there’s a page. Student teachers can and often do take my observations home and think about what I’ve written, and I often notice that some of my suggestions are being followed, and behaviors that have inspired my appreciations are becoming more prevalent.
So far, only one employed teacher has asked me to write this kind of observation about his teaching, and though I tried doing it twice, I felt very uncomfortable writing suggestions, even though this teacher did express
appreciation for my feedback. Many of the essays I write praise teachers – sometimes mentioning names. But making suggestions casts me in a role I don’t want to play (so far) for employed teachers. I don’t want to be seen as someone who tells you that what you do is anything but perfect. Of course no one is perfect, but I’d rather not spend my energy getting specific about that with employed teachers.
But I feel quite comfortable and useful giving feedback to student teachers. For the most part, they want to know how they can become better teachers, and it’s easier for them to listen to someone who doesn’t have power over them. I feel better being a wise old man to people who don’t have much experience. And the student teachers like getting my feedback. Some jokingly (or not) refer to my appreciations and suggestions as “good news” and “bad news,” but they learn from both.
I hope there are ways all teachers can get this kind of feedback. In fact, I hope all people have ways of finding out how they can grow. And I think that information is easier to give and easier to receive if it’s delivered a little bit at a time, and in a balanced way.

Comments are closed.