Last week I had numerous conversations with colleagues across the School District regarding how to effectively give and receive feedback at all levels in corporations and schools alike. What amazes me about it is that there are so many simple ideas to adhere to that parents teach their kids before even getting to school. Sayings like "listen before speaking" and " if you have nothing nice to say don't say anything at all" have gone through my mind so much recently. Unfortunately, the type and amount of feedback is often incorrectly applied so that the receiver feels becomes more defensive than ever.
In my belief, critical feedback is the backbone to improving oneself in any profession. Teaching, while often viewed as a job with so much interaction, can be strangely isolating. I do get to speak to children on a daily basis but in between classes, preparing materials, grading tests, and tutoring, I do not always have the kind of adult conversation I seek. Without it, I am left to my own devices to improve (or not improve) my practice.
To that end I spent time this past week in three of my colleagues classrooms and re-learned a number of important things:
1) It is fun to watch others do what they do best
2) There are resources I don't know about and should be exposed to by getting feedback
3) Other people want feedback too
"Professional development" almost seems like an anachronism of another time. Our official system is set up that all the "development" is provided to us instead of with us or by us. I proudly take part in programs like the New Teacher Network and EdCamp Philly that try to flip that on its head, but I should not have to constantly leave my building to better myself inside it.
I hope more teachers take time to visit their colleagues classrooms to see what's going on. Without doing that, how are we going to collaborate on bigger things in the future?