If you have been an educational leader for any length of time you have probably realized that teachers are not much different from students when you consider their personalities and how they like what they like. Like students, teachers have their own personalities, beliefs, comfort zones, secrets, successes, failures, and hundreds of other things. That is what makes them who they are.
As leaders in our building we often encourage teachers to get to know their students, build relationships, and form opinions of how best to influence them. If you have a relationship with that student you are more likely to have influence with that student. Right? Well, teachers are not so different. As leaders, it is our responsibility to get to know the intricacies of our teachers so that we may build positive relationships with them. Once the positive relationship is formed influence will follow. Knowing your teachers will allow for a greater understanding of how they respond to different situations and how they will respond to you. Once you have discovered how best to communicate effectively with your teachers the quicker you can provide feedback that is both beneficial for teachers and for you.
As you navigate through the walk-through and feedback cycle, the following are some things you may wish to consider as you attempt to strengthen the relationships you have with your teachers.
Focus on the Positive:
Teachers wish to be praised. Teachers want your kind words and want to know that you appreciate what they do. Teachers want your approval. When you begin providing feedback to teachers consider focusing on the positive aspects of your class room visits. Make an effort to find good things to comment on and once you have established that positive relationship with your teachers you can begin to slide in a few constructive comments from time to time. Once you have that relationship established with teachers they are more welcoming of a little constructive criticism every so often.
Structure Your Comments Wisely:
Play on the positive attributes of your teachers. If a teacher is a great class room manager, focus many of your positive comments on that specific area. IfÂ your teacher is a content specialist, make several comments about their unique knowledge of the subject area. Focusing on the expertise of the teacher softens the comments about areas that may need a little growth.
Even though you want to focus on the positive aspects of your teachers’ ability please be honest. Your honesty and integrity are your most treasured quality as an instructional leader. Focus on the positive aspects of the visit but be honest. Do not create positive moments to foster positive comments. You should be able to find at the very least a few moments to offer positive comments. If not, stay in the room longer to find those positive moments. If your teachers do not trust your comments as true and honest reflections of what you see, hear, and feel they will not value your feedback. If you absolutely cannot find positive comments to focus on from the visit then be honest with your constructive criticism. Your teachers will respect your comments and your feedback if they know and understand that your comments are honest reflections of what you observed. Also, if you cannot find any positive moments during a class room visit then there are larger issue to address.
Offer a Glimpse at a Solution:
As you predominantly focus on the positive moments of the visit and gently work in a constructive comment or two consider offering bits and pieces of a solution to solicit reflection from the teacher. One of the goals of the observation and feedback process is not to fix anything for a teacher but to involve the teacher in the process of growth and improvement. Teachers fair better when they are the ones that discover the solutions to their challenges with a little help from you. Your job is to guide the teacher in a positive direction.
The path to growth and improvement may be different for each teacher but with your guidance they can find the path that works best for them. There are many aspects to formulating effective feedback provided to teachers after class room visits. I have been visiting class rooms and offering feedback to teachers for seven years and the single most influential lesson I have learned is that I am continuously working on improving my ability to reach teachers in a manner that is most effective. I have learned that teachers are very similar to students in regard to their individuality and unique perspectives on their personal attributes. Reaching teachers like reaching students is a process. The process should be genuine, should be honest, and should be a partnership between you and the teacher.
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