people is the hardest job of all. Perhaps in a perfect world, everyone
would do what was expected, strive to improve and grow, and accept
feedback without getting defensive. In a perfect world, supervisors
would know when and how to give feedback so that it could be heard.
Unfortunately, this is far from a perfect world.
Every principal recognizes that the
quality of a school. depends on the quality of its faculty. This means
principals must spend much of their time and energy developing their
faculty and helping teachers grow. Giving honest feedback is the most
important way to accomplish this.
When positive feedback is called for,
praise should be spread around freely, and it should be as specific as
possible. Saying "nice job" isn't good enough. However, giving
negative feedback - letting others know when their performance is
lacking - is much harder. While we must reinforce positive behaviors, it
is just as important to identify and attempt to correct negative
These are 10 tips I have found helpful in
preparing negative feedback. Saying hard things is
hard, and these will help guard against the instinct to avoid
confrontation by minimizing interactions, being too casual, or not being
specific, or failing to determine if your message got through.
1. Pick the time and place
carefully. Too often, we don't give feedback the time or
privacy it deserves. Feedback about a minor incident doesn't call for a
private meeting time. But if the issue is important, having a private
meeting gives the right message. It's also important to remember that
while praise can be public, criticism should never be overheard or
delivered at the spur of the moment.
2. Be timely.
Wait long enough after identifying the problem so that you can place it
in an appropriate context, but be sure it is still fresh in the
teacher's mind. Also, if you feel yourself getting upset, wait a bit and
calm down before having your conversation.
3. Be specific. Why do you
feel that the lesson was paced too slowly? What was it about the
handling of a parent's complaint that disappointed you? How could you
tell that the students were bored? Why do you think the lesson wasn't
well-planned? Offering specifics invites rebuttal or disagreement, but
if you really want people to change what they are doing, you owe it to
them to give focused feedback. The more specific you are, the more likely they are to change their behavior. Remember, offer
feedback that is always directed at their performance, not at them
4. Communication is more than
words. We can argue whether nonverbal communication represents
50 or 66 percent of communication, but there's no doubt that our
nonverbal messages play a key part in what people hear and understand.
How you say something is as important as what you say. You should be
sure that your eyes, face, and body are giving the same message as your
words. In preparation for particularly difficult meetings, I often
role-play what I am going to say and how I am going to say it with an
5. Provide a rationale.
You can't simply assume that what you say will be
heard because you're the person saying it. The other person needs to
understand why it is important to you - the
implications and context for your thinking. In some cases, this may be
obvious - students who are bored aren't learning. In other situations,
especially those stemming from teacher-parent or teacher-teacher
interactions, the teacher needs to know your thinking.
Next page in this article
1 | 2