Getting Honest Feedback from a Peer

When I was doing my teacher training, I was assigned to watch two colleagues (of my choice) teach a class and then have two colleagues watch me teach a class. It was extremely informative to watch – and to be watched.

After being watched, I sat with each of my colleagues, and they gave me feedback. I like feedback. Even though sitting through one class is just a snapshot (so many things can accidentally go wrong OR accidentally go right during one class), I knew that what they saw in that class said something about how I generally was in class. It was indicative of how I regularly reacted or acted during a class.

I had a manager who used to watch my classes periodically. He was fairly honest, in that way that Dutch people have with being honest and always made a point to give me an equal-ish number of ‘Tips’ and ‘Tops’, which is a Dutch thing.

My Toastmasters experience (oh how I love to talk about Toastmasters!) has been instrumental in getting me used to giving and receiving feedback. I am so used to it that I’ve come to prefer honesty to not-quite-honesty. When someone tones down the feedback in order to spare my feelings (in any area of life), I feel cheated. I’d like to hear what it is that they think I am doing ‘wrong’ so I can decide whether I want to ‘fix’ it. Many times what I’ve decided to do is an actual choice.

I would love to have an ongoing relationship with a peer who would give me honest feedback on how I am in class. Of course I think I’m good, but it would be helpful to see if someone else thinks that. My classroom is my kingdom. I am the one who makes the rules, the one who sets the pace and sets the tone. I am the one who fixes things if they go wrong. We’re all like that. We get used to doing things our way, and we’re convinced that we’re doing things the right way.

Some people might feel a bit like “Who am I to tell you what to do? It’s your classroom.” You’re a person with an opinion. And if I ask for it, I want it. I look back on my last group of colleagues and I wonder who among them would take the time to watch my class, be able to say, “Why did you do that?” and thendiscuss it at some length.

But I’d love that sort of discussion. I’d love to have that mirror held up to my performance and be picked at. It might be slightly painful, but what if it helped? What if I said, “Wow. That is a good point. I’m going to re-think the way I…”

That would be good, right?

I know I’d be honest with a peer if they asked me to give feedback. I’m firmly from the school of “This is going to pinch, but you need to hear it.”

Feedback is a good thing. I teach my students to give feedback (when it comes up). I wish it were more a part of the system once you’re an actual teacher. I wish we had (or made) time to do it. It would keep us on our toes and would keep us learning.

Do you give feedback to your colleagues in any formalized (or informal) way?

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