We know constructive criticism and observations from our administrators can be tough. So today is all about growing as a teacher, but more importantly not being AFRAID to grow. In this episode, we’ll be talking about 3 specific ways you can grow in your craft as a teacher without feeling nervous about or threatened by feedback.
I’m sure most of us feel just a teeny bit uncomfortable or upset when we get constructive criticism. This absolutely used to be my mindset. I never wanted anyone to come observe me, and if they did, I wanted to know well in advance, so I could make sure I had the most killer lesson ready to go!
When I knew an observation was coming up, I would stress to no end. I would plan some crazy lesson that wasn’t reflective of what I actually did with my students on a daily basis. It was a total horse and pony show.
And then, the most insane part is that I would get upset with the constructive feedback I would receive because I’d spent SO much time putting that darn lesson together! Or, even worse, would be that I had prepped the perfect lesson and then my principal ended up not being able to observe me because something came up.
Talk about negative experiences, right? And it’s very likely you’ve experienced the same thing or something similar.
And I want to say though, as time went on, and I became more comfortable with my skills and abilities as a teacher, a shift began to slowly happen.
I started to look at observations and feedback through a vastly different lens.
And interestingly enough, the major breakthrough in my mindset shift happened when I was watching a round of the US Open – that’s a golf tournament if you’re not familiar.
There I was, sitting on the couch with my husband, watching Tiger come back from his downfall, if you will, and this profound thought occurred to me. Here was Tiger Woods, one of the BEST golfers in the world, that put in hours upon hours upon hours of practice to get better at his craft. HE, himself, had a coach! He, himself, was always adjusting his swing. He, himself, would take criticism and feedback for how to improve his short game. And he was one of the absolute BEST!
So, why was I any different? Why was I not able to approach teaching with the same mindset that I needed to practice my craft? That I needed to adjust and try new things? That I needed to get feedback from others?
BOOM. Wow. What a breakthrough that was.
I stopped putting myself on this pedestal that I was such a good teacher that I never needed any feedback or criticism to get better. What a gift to myself!
So what I want to do now, is walk you through some actionable tips you can begin implementing for yourself – all of which will allow you to grow as a teacher and see feedback and constructive criticism as a POSITIVE thing.
Tip #1: Be proactive.
Take matters into your own hands and start soliciting feedback from your principal by inviting him or her into your classroom instead of waiting for a formal observation.
By taking the initiative to invite your principal in, you’ve already established a different mindset for yourself because in this case, you are essentially ASKING for feedback. You’re not waiting for feedback to be given to you after a mandatory observation. And in that way, you’re much more likely to be receptive to what your principal will have to say.
This can also be something as simple as if you have a student that you’re struggling with, ask your principal to come in, observe the students’ interactions in your classroom, and ask for help. This won’t show weakness by any means – it’ll show initiative to your principal. It’ll show that you truly have this strong desire to be the best teacher you can be – and we all need coaches and a second set of eyes – that’s just what our principal is there for!
Keeping with this idea of being proactive, when you do decide to invite your principal in, you can start with showcasing a lesson that you’re really confident with. That way, you can start with one of your strengths first. Then, once you feel more comfortable, you can ask him or her to come back for a lesson that you’re a little unsure of. When you do that, you’ll want to ask specific questions after the lesson:
- When you were still a teacher and taught a lesson that got a totally different outcome, what would you do differently?
- What did you think went particularly well with my lesson?
- What do you think I should incorporate more of into my lesson?
Tip #2: Create a culture of growth at your school.
Now, let me take this back to a personal experience, so you can see what this looks like. One year at a school where I taught, the principal decided that while he would still come into the classroom often to see students in action, he wasn’t going to do a formal evaluation.
Instead, every teacher was required to go into every other teachers’ classroom for a quick 5-10 minute super informal observation. And yes, while we did do this during our own prep periods, it was really invaluable.
And then what we would do is at the end of our weekly faculty meetings, we would all get together and debrief – we would discuss trends that we saw across subjects and grade levels, we’d even talk about some common goals that we had, and even necessary systems that we saw needed to put into place.
Not only did we all love it, but there were so many positives that came along with that simple practice.
- We were easily able to see different ways of teaching – small nuances in our craft that we could take back and apply in our own classrooms.
- It also wasn’t daunting to have a fellow teacher in the room, so by the time our principal came to observe us, we were all so used to having someone else in our room that it really wasn’t a big deal.
- And most importantly, we really got into this mindset that we can all learn from each other. That we all had something valuable to offer – every single one of us.
So if you’d like to do this same thing at your own school, it doesn’t even have to be at the same level we did it. You could simply ask a handful of your closest teacher friends, and you could set something up for next week! My only suggestion would be to make sure you have an opportunity to debrief and discuss after you all observe each other.
Tip #3: It’s time to change your mindset.
Growth mindset is such a big part of education right now. But I mostly see it being spoken about for our own students. Well what about for us teachers?
I truly believe it is time for us as teachers to start changing our mindset into one of growth. Yes, we go to professional development. Yes, we research and learn new strategies. Yes, we read books and take ideas back to our classroom. All fantastic things to be doing that move us toward becoming better teachers.
BUT, when it really comes down to it, and it really comes down to being observed and listening to the areas where you need to improve, do you really still have that same growth mindset? I’m sure a lot of us don’t. I know I didn’t.
But if you can make that change. If you can make that mental shift. And you can view constructive criticism as just that – a way for you to become even BETTER – you will become even better. You will no longer be subconsciously blocking out and drowning out suggestions from your principal, and you will be able to view your own teaching from an objective standpoint.
You will be able to become that incredible or even more incredible teacher that you know is in there. You just have to be willing to do what it takes.
Now, I really hope this episode inspired you in more ways than one. Take the actionable steps back to your school, your classroom, discuss them with your colleagues. Begin working on creating that community of learners, where you are all working together to be the best you can possibly be.
If looking for more inspiration, make sure to join our community of educators over on Instagram by following us @ebacademics.
Want to listen to even more episodes?
- Episode #1: 3 Simple Ways to Create Student Buy In
- Episode #2: How to Overcome 3 Writing Mistakes You Might be Making
To download this episode, just click here!