John Pfordresher’s latest post about feedback got me thinking about my own experience with feedback. First, I don’t ask for nearly enough feedback. Thanks to John’s post I’ve been inspired to change this. Second, I don’t seem to take positive feedback well. Wait, what? Most people probably do this:
That’s me sometimes, but for the most part I can handle negative feedback, so long as its informative and constructive. It’s the positive things – the compliments that I can’t handle. I just have a hard time accepting that they’re true. This probably has something to do with my self deprecating personality or my constant battle with impostor syndrome. When a student gives me a compliment, the first thing I ask myself is “what do they really want from me? Are they fishing for a higher grade or some leniency?” I often suspect the student wants something instead of genuinely believing that I actually did a good job and that they enjoyed my class or perhaps even learned something Even when I know the student does not want something, sometimes I feel like they are just being nice (students are not usually upfront about their true feelings when asked face to face). Or, maybe they don’t really know what a good teacher is?
I’ve been called the best teacher, the funnest teacher, the teacher that helped them learn the most, the most prepared teacher. All of these compliments have kept me up at night wondering, “It can’t possibly be true, can it?”. I think this is indicative that there is something wrong. Am I trying to live up to a standard that doesn’t exist? In my quest to be reflective in order to become a better teacher, have I just become super critical of any successes? Or, is this just an extension of my day to day personality?
I’m hoping that by making classroom feedback a more permanent fixture in my classroom, I can come to grips with whatever compliments (and criticisms) come my way. I hope that this gives me a more accurate picture of my classroom, my teaching, and myself from the students’ eyes. By doing this, I can get the empirical evidence I need to accept the positive feedback I (hope) I will continue to receive.