Feedback is not Fatal

Feedback is the breakfast of champions.
~Ken Blanchard

This year I had the opportunity to have a 360-Degree evaluation completed to help me better understand how I (and my team) can make improvements to the way I lead our schools.  A 360-Degree evaluation is a multi-source feedback tool that allows members at all levels of your immediate work circle to provide critical/constructive feedback in several domains.  The domains that my 360-Degree evaluation focused on were: Communication Skills, Team, Ethics, and Leadership.  The data received comes in both qualitative and quantitative formats.

The information I received was eye opening and allowed me to better reflect on my blind spots and ways that I can improve the way I do my job.  It can be difficult to receive critical feedback, especially when some take a “no-holds barred” approach to providing feedback.  While some of the feedback was difficult to hear, it is absolutely critical that I hear it and that we routinely take a long hard look in the mirror.  While the collection of data is the first step, creating actionable goals based on the information is the most important component.  As an administrative team we have reflected on this data and have created team and personal goals for ourselves.

The 360-Degree evaluation got me thinking about the ways we give feedback to our students and our children.  As teachers and parents we may be the first source of feedback for our students and children.  I started to look at how our teachers are giving feedback and paying close attention to how I provide my own children with information on their work and behavior.  At school I am proud to say that our teachers are providing kids with clear, constructive, and actionable feedback on a daily basis.  This week, I had the honor to sit in on a classroom where the teacher was giving an in class reading assessment.  The assessment is simple and asks students to read a short passage aloud for one minute.  The teacher tracks how much the child reads in that minute and tracks the number of mistakes.  After a quick calculation we can determine a fluency and accuracy rate.  At the teacher called her students up, one-by-one, she had a quick conversation about their reading goals, how they feel about reading, and helped them to see their current growth.  After the assessment, the teacher reviewed the latest data point and celebrated the progress the child had made.  She then provided suggestions and feedback on how the child can make improvement.  Each child bounded back to his/her desk determined to work hard to make improvements.  I was so proud of our students and this teacher for the way she framed the feedback.

As parents, giving critical feedback is much more difficult.  I often find myself saying things like, “you can do better” or “you’ll get ‘em next time.”  It is always best to help your child to understand that success is within reach, but that he/she may need to keep trying or employ a different approach.  So here are a few suggestions:

  • Be specific: What went right and what went wrong?  Help your child to see exactly where mistakes were made.

  • Focus on actions: Help your child to create action steps to solve the problem or do better next time.  In an instant gratification world this is often most difficult for kids.  We need to help them understand that improvement is a process and doesn’t happen immediately.

  • Avoid false praise: Kids know when they’ve made a mistake, and we should avoid propping them up with praise that isn’t helpful or actionable.  This type of praise often makes the adult feel better, not the child.

One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves and pass on to our children is the ability to receive and act on critical feedback.  This too is a process, but it is our job as adults to help our kids to process feedback in a manner that will help them improve.

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