I seem to be facing the same question lately about how to build a school culture that provides honest feedback to one another.
As educators, we seem to be very afraid of the words “observation,” “supervision,” or the worst…”evaluation.” These words bring on dry mouth, sweaty palms and high blood pressure in the most seasoned educator.
We are reluctant to share what we do or what we know.
Why are we so afraid to let others see what we are doing?
As teachers, we spend a lot of time working…that’s news to some of you right? :) Honestly though, most teachers spend a crazy amount of time planning, preparing, thinking about, revising, reflecting, assessing, revisiting, reteaching, researching, planning again…. It is only natural when we invest that much time, energy and heart into something that we want others to see the value in it as well.
To allow someone else to observe or provide feedback becomes personal. Somehow we need to begin to separate the professional from the personal. This is an incredibly difficult task for any teacher or administrator. I have spent time, energy and a lot of thought making our school plan for Teacher Growth. It has become “mine,” which makes it personal. We were asked to post our plans to a district wiki as a means to sharing our ideas. I was extremely nervous to put our ideas “out there” for everyone to see.
Why don’t we share what we know?
I also believe we need to spend more time sharing our experiences and our learning. We ask our students to share what they have learned, what they read about, what strategy they used each and every day. Why do we not ask the same of our colleagues? We are a collective group of “experts.” We have failures to share and the learning from the experience. We have successes that can be celebrated and replicated.
Recently I was asked to share our school plan for Teacher Growth and Supervision. I reluctantly agreed. And…I am dreading it. I have said to my VP and to my husband, “I’m going to tell them I don’t want to do it, I can’t do it.” I really, really, really don’t want to get up in front of my colleagues and explain or share our plan. Just the idea of it makes me sick to my stomach. Why? I believe my plan is well thought out and will help teachers improve their practice. I have heard positive feedback from district office and teachers at our school. I value the opinions of my colleagues, however I am nervous to be “judged.”
Why not open our doors to feedback, advice and professional criticism so that we can be better at what we do?
I want my teachers to be comfortable enough to hear my observations, answer my questions and accept any advice I may have. My intention is only to help each teacher become the best teacher they can be. However, I realize it is scary to allow ourselves to be vulnerable to others opinions or criticism. We can become better when we work together, right?
I love this video clip of Dylan Wiliam speaking about teachers getting better…(shared with us by our Assistant Superintendent)
Why do I struggle to put the same ideas into practice for my own situation?
How can we begin to share?
As I say in almost every post I write…we must first build relationships with the people we work with. This goes for students, staff, colleagues and families. If we do not take the time to build those relationships, we will never get to the place where we can provide meaningful, honest feedback that that will make a change in a classroom, a school or for a student.
At our school, through our Teacher Growth Plan we have some ideas for sharing. One idea: We begin each staff meeting with a Power Point of our observations through the month. We have an observational focus each month, so we focus on all the great things we see our staff doing. This Power Point is on a loop as our teachers come in and get ready for the meeting. We believe it is a great way to affirm what is already happening in our school. Our hope is that it will be a catalyst for professional conversation.
Will I share our plan with my fellow administrators? Yes… no… yes… not sure….ARGH!!