One of the most important, but seldom talked about, aspects of teaching is receiving feedback in a positive way. If you’re like me, your knee-jerk reaction is to become defensive and to come up with justifications. You might even feel like the person giving you feedback doesn’t know what they’re talking about, doesn’t understand your classroom or is simply being unfair. This isn’t the best way to receive feedback.
Read on for tips on how to deal with feedback from management, your students, parents and even your fellow teachers in a way that can help you grow as a teacher. Again, there is no such thing as a perfect teacher, but to grow as a teacher requires reflection and understanding the perspective of the other shareholders in your classroom.
Our free resource for this post is a peer observation template that you can access by clicking on the button below. Read on to find out why this is useful.
Feedback from Management
At the very least, as a teacher, you will likely find yourself observed twice a year by the management team at your school or center. There are two scenarios here; either you are being observed by a DoS/Senior Teacher who is an experienced teacher, or you are being observed by a manager who has never seen the teaching side of a classroom. Let’s start with the first scenario.
When you go to a feedback session with your DoS, it’s important to remember that they have likely been teaching longer than yourself. You should go into the meeting with an open mind, as well as a means of taking notes. You’ve likely never seen yourself teaching, so at the very least, you should value that perspective.
The first question that you are likely to be asked is how you thought the class went. It’s a good idea to go into the meeting with a list of ways that you would improve the class that was observed. This shows your employer that you’ve already reflected on the class, have the background knowledge of what an ideal TEFL class looks like and that you are taking their time seriously.
Take advantage of this observation and feedback session as much as you can. To do this, don’t just listen to their critiques, but try and discuss with them actionable ways to change this. For example, if they mention that one of your activities didn’t seem to be very student centered, ask for a way that you could adapt the activity to make it so. If they mention that some of the students didn’t seem very engaged in the lesson, see if they have any ideas to change this. Ideally, you should walk away from the feedback session with some new activities and strategies to deal with classroom issues.
In the second scenario, where the manager or administrator observing you doesn’t have any classroom experience, it’s still important to listen. These are, after all, the people paying your salary and it’s important to keep them happy. They have a vested interest in the students being happy and showing improvement. They might also be more aware of student expectations than you are.
That said, take what they have to say with a grain of salt. They might just feel the need to say something negative with the hopes that you improve. It doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything negative happening in the classroom; just that they feel the need to try and improve the quality of their product; in this case, teaching.
From Students and Parents
Few things feel worse than receiving negative feedback from your students. Hopefully, the feedback that you received was anonymous, via a classroom survey. If not, it’s difficult not to look at the students who don’t like your classes in the same way.
Hopefully, most of the feedback was fairly positive, but with a few areas where improvement could be made. In this case, try looking at the class from the students’ perspectives. If they aren’t enjoying the class, why not? If they aren’t receiving enough homework, what could you give them? If they don’t feel the language is relative to their lives, is there a way to make it more relative or to show them how it is relative?
If the feedback was pretty negative all around, don’t give up. This means that you need to really shake things up and try something different. Try some drastic changes, and, if this doesn’t seem to work, ask your DoS for an informal observation. Another perspective might be necessary to come up with ways to improve an unhappy class.
Appeasing the parents of your young learners or teen students is often more difficult than making the students happy. It’s important to listen to what they have to say as it might give you an insight into why a child is behaving a certain way or certain areas where they are struggling. No matter what they say, no matter how unrealistic it might be, try to listen and keep them happy. The last thing you want to deal with is an angry parent talking to management.
One thing that parents don’t have, is direct knowledge of what is going on in the classroom. This sometimes results in unrealistic expectations and/or fear that they are wasting their money. The solution to this is to keep parents in the loop. Do whatever you can as a teacher to inform them of student progress and what happens in your classroom. Also, if they are more aware of what you expect out of the students by the end of the course, it will help them form realistic expectations.
From Fellow Teachers
This is the best type of feedback to receive, because it comes without any pressure at all. Teacher’s tend to feel the most comfortable listening to this type of feedback and are more apt to make these changes than if the suggestions came from management. That said, schools rarely have a system set up for peer observations and feedback.
Talking about classroom problems with fellow teachers is good, but it’s often difficult to treat a problem without seeing it. If your school doesn’t have a system of peer observation and feedback, why not set one up yourself? Ideally, this would be in a mentorship type of program in which an inexperienced teacher is paired with an experienced one. This has the dual benefit of the experienced teacher getting a bit of management experience as well and seeing what it’s like to have pastoral duties.
The most important thing to remember when receiving feedback is to try not to take it personally or get upset. Remember that the motive of the person giving feedback is that they want the class to be as good as possible. With that shared motivation between the two of you, hopefully you can find common ground and make your feedback a growing experience and not turn you into an emotional wreck.
If you’d like a sample of a peer observation template, you can get access to one by clicking on the button below.