Confessions of a People-Pleasing Teacher

21 Dec 2015

This is a post for people who identify with this comic:



In particular, this is a post for people who struggle with receiving feedback, especially feedback surrounding their teaching, whether as end-of-term course evaluations or as mid-workshop, mid-lesson, mid-course feedback forms.

Where I’m coming from

I really struggle with feedback on my teaching. I honestly want to improve, but I’m also terrified to hear what people really think. I’d like to think this is a common sentiment, but for me, I know that my own fear of feedback is exacerbated by the fact that I am a slowly recovering people pleaser. By default, I want other people to feel good, and so constructive/negative feedback from learners pings all my anxious, people-pleasing, perfectionistic buttons.
(These people-pleasing tendencies have other repercussions in the classroom, but that’ll be the topic of another post, someday.)

So this is a post of things that have helped me get better at receiving feedback. Full disclaimer: my only expertise in overcoming feedback fear is my own experience, so take this list with a grain of salt. Hopefully some of these ideas will be helpful to other people who struggle with receiving feedback, for whatever reason.

A list

Mental habits matter!

A story

I was finally brave enough to try a “one-up, one-down” feedback exercise at the end of my first solo instructor training in December. In one-up, one-down, the instructor (in this case, me) asks the learners to alternate in giving one positive and one negative point about the day, without repeating anything that has already been said.

This was a little scary for me, since it involves negative feedback in real time with no filter.

That said, receiving feedback this way was less panic-inducing than I expected. First, part of the exercise requires that the instructor not respond to any of the feedback until everyone has had their turn. I was just the scribe, writing down people’s impressions, which turned out to be a fairly effective way of appropriately distancing myself from the feedback even as it was happening live. Second, the “artificial” balance of positive and negative feedback alleviated the worry of “will there be more positive than negative?” It’s so tempting to weigh up likes and dislikes and hope that you came out ahead - the 50/50 +/- split helps make that a non-issue.

I was still a little anxious about some of the negative feedback. But having practiced receiving feedback, having thought about a lot of these things, it was not as bad as it could have been. I can see that I’m moving towards a state of not only being able to receive all kinds of feedback, but to welcome it, not necessarily without fear, but in spite of.

I hope that’s an encouragement to other folks who teach!

how-to » stories » personal, teaching, self-care, mental health,

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