One of the hardest part of working with adults is working with adults! We are a very smart and savvy bunch, but oftentimes navigating the professional conduct aspects of education are the toughest for teachers, leaders and coaches. I believe that teaching is not just a “job” but a professional and personal calling and responsibility and I often say “If teaching is just a job, it’s waaaaaay too hard of a job just for the paycheck!” We all know that in order for us to keep up-to-date on the research and practical application of research, we must seek to receive feedback from our peers and leaders – and this is sometimes pretty tough.
I have seen teachers cry, I have seen teachers throw their reading manual, I have seen teachers say a choice word or two and I have seen teachers rile up the rest of the staff against the person delivering the feedback. While this is rare, it does happen. But what we don’t often see is how many of those in leadership positions agonize about having instructional conversations – they want to deliver feedback cleanly and kindly so that the information is received and implemented.
Whether you are a teacher talking with a parent, a coach coaching a teacher or a principal leading a staff member, we owe it to our students to hold a high standard for their teachers through honest instructional feedback. Try these six steps as you plan to give feedback – the steps will help “trim the fat” of unnecessary information to get to the heart of improving instruction and immediate action:
- Re-state the purpose of the observation and what you were looking for
- Ask the teacher to reflect: What did you want me to see while I was in the classroom? What had you hoped that I would see? What did it look like when the students were engaging in XYZ task? How did the student performance match/mismatch your expectations?
- Using your notes to begin, explain to the teacher what you saw, giving the data
- Provide specific “Yes!” and specific “I would like you to work on” statements, paying close attention to why you have these highlighted
- Ask the teacher to reflect on your notes and employ the coach as necessary
- Choose a “next step” time to see changes implemented