This week I received some peer feedback on a unit I wrote that has me thinking about the feedback I give my students, as well as the kind I might give to colleagues. My experience begs the question:
How often have I said the right thing the wrong way?
First off, I don't believe the feedback I received was entirely correct. I think the reviewer overlooked some vital information. Secondly, and more importantly, at times the tone felt patronizing and judgmental, as if my teaching abilities were under a microscope instead of the unit I created, which no doubt was not her intent. As a result though, the tone compromised my emotional ability to receive what the reviewer had to offer. I was too caught up in the reviewer's approach to consider her viewpoint.
As a teacher I give feedback daily, all day long. I nudge my writers. I confer with readers. I meet with mathematicians. I talk with students about behavior. I even give feedback byway of facial expressions, body language, and physical touch. I wish my feedback were always on target, but I know at times I judge too quickly without seeing the whole picture and get it wrong. Negotiating recess drama is a perfect example.
Then there are the times when I'm right but my approach misses the mark. At that point, growth is compromised, because the student can't hear what I have to say. Just this week, in the midst of literally being sick and tired, one of my students responded to directions in a way I wish he hadn't. I showed no outward anger, but my approach didn't offer him a strategy for growth either. I said the right thing in the wrong way.
Today I plan to tackle my reviewer's feedback. I owe it to my unit and my students to look passed the tone and mine out the parts that could raise the quality of my work. And in the future, as I give feedback to both students and colleagues, I must remember that even if the feedback is right, the wrong tone can sabotage everything.