feedback for the sake of feedback

I know feedback is important. One method I employ to garner feedback is to give my students a couple written questions every day.

I then take the responses and read them. I comment on them. Or I ask questions. Often times I request more specific information.

I take great pride in collecting feedback and reviewing it assiduously. I believe all this effort helps to show students my interest in their learning. It also provides a line of communication that may prove more accessible to students. It makes me a more effective teacher (at least that is what I tell myself when I look in the mirror).

All well and good. But what is it all for?

In my previous post I discussed losing my focus. I managed to lose it even while eliciting daily feedback in a number of ways. How, you might ask, did this happen.

Asking for feedback, collecting it, talking about it is all for not if we don’t bloody listen to it.

While in class today I heard a number of students tell me (for the umpteenth time) they have a hard time with taking notes. Something finally clicked. They had been giving me feedback for days requesting specific help with taking notes on what they are listening to.

Instead of listening, I carried on doing what, in my mind, was needed. Somehow I allowed their requests to enter my brain space but not sink into my thoughts on how to guide their learning. I allowed the demands of a static curriculum to guide me, not the needs of my students. I was aware of what my students needed, but it was a superficial awareness. The dots between the feedback and planning didn’t connect.

There are all kinds of interpretations we can infer from this reflection on my teaching. Your guess is as good as mine at the moment (more self reflection certainly called for).

Feedback is meant to help us adjust, to be flexible to the ever changing contexts of the classroom. Feedback is meant to help us meet the needs of individuals and classes as a whole.

It doesn’t do any good to elicit feedback if we aren’t actually going to be present to our students needs and plan our lessons accordingly.





trying to do everything…

…and getting nothing done. Or, to be more precise, failing to satisfactorily facilitate learning.

Over the past week and two days I have begun teaching again. It is the first time back in a classroom since the end of January. I am in a new country. I am already on my second apartment (which both have different voltage standards = huge headache) since my arrival. I have taken over a class, in the middle of an 8 week term, from a teacher who left due to a lack of…well he wasn’t a good fit shall we say.

Basically, I have been tasked with completing a term worth of work in half the time. This is hard enough in the best of times, but when I am still learning myriad admin duties …whilst trying to settle in professionally and personally … and help students with developing classroom/learning skills outside of the remit for the course.. the situation calls to mind one word, cluster….difficulty.

And yet I have been working my tail off to manage it all; perhaps from naivety, perhaps from hubris.

While I was reflecting on this clusterdifficulty today I realized that I had allowed the immensity of the task to consume me like quicksand. I realized I had lost my focus.

Somewhere in the mess of life I stopped facilitating learning. Instead my focus turned to keeping the juggling act going at all costs.

We teachers manage an immense amount on our proverbial plates. I know that I have often taken pride in how much I can handle on mine. There is, however, a limit to our abilities to manage.

I know now that when I try to do too much it is my learners who suffer.

Reflection, feedback and experience all helped pull me out of the quicksand. And you know what, I’m not upset with myself for losing focus. Believe you me, this is a major surprise to myself most of all. Usually the self flagellation takes at least 24 hours to work itself out of my system. I put this success down to presence. Daily practice with being present has provided a monumental shift with how I interact with the world. But most importantly it has provided the most wonderful gift, true self compassion. Words yet fail me in attempting to explain this. But I am sure I will find them, most likely in a future blog post.

And so ends this rambly blog entry. Here’s to avoiding the quicksand and finding the self compassion to truly be kind with ourselves.