I should stress that our teaching practice was tough and our teacher trainer was extremely demanding. Despite all the teaching experience most of us trainees already had, we all suffered from terrible stage fright before each observation. Equally unsettling was what came next – the oral and written feedback that we would regularly get after the lesson.
As I was re-reading the document the other day, the first thing that struck me was how detached the feedback looked after all the time. Although I remembered most of the details from that particular lesson, it suddenly looked as if the comments had been written for somebody else.
Students had a quiet start to the lesson.
Since so many students have a problem with the name of “R”, how about writing it on the board and getting it fixed before the problem proliferates?
Please don’t let these mistakes go, especially when this is the focus of this section.
Hana, can you ask more questions?
They are pretty quiet – any chance of a bit more mingling?
No feedback on the activity?
It makes me laugh when I remember how, in my thoughts, I reacted to the following remark:
My teacher trainer wrote: “So you did decide to put your whole plan on the board. Was it of any value? Did they read it? Do you think this is worth doing in the future?”
I thought: “Ok, so the teacher trainer thought it was a silly idea to display the plan on the board. Damn it! I shouldn’t have done that. I only wanted to please anyway.”
Now that I think about it, it’s actually a great question to ponder. Is it worth doing? Would the learners and/or the trainee/teachers benefit somehow? I guess that back then I only wanted to get a decent grade and I believed that every deviation from the ideal, i.e. every decision that the observer had questioned, may finally destroy this ambition.
I remember that back then when I felt stressed out, any even slightly critical comment looked judging to me, even condemning. I felt as if I had messed it all up. This is obviously ridiculous. In retrospect, the feedback looks perfectly just, helpful and constructive. The positive comments suddenly come to the fore:
Nice demo of a vocabulary item.
Nice clear speaking voice.
They laughed at your remark, which is a good sign.
Thank you for NOT giving out the worksheet before the task.
It’s unbelievable how much self-flagellation goes on in the mind of the observee when they think it’s high stakes. It’s mostly due to the stress the observee experiences and it doesn’t necessarily have to relate to the quality of the lesson or the way feedback is delivered or how harsh it appears at a given moment.
It’s even more unbelievable how dramatically the value of feedback changes when it’s no longer vitally important to us. The self-flagellation is gone and it gives way to serious thinking. It can even be amusing. I wonder why it is so; it is the same feedback and the same addressee after all. Perhaps it’s true that time heals all wounds. Also, we change, evolve and grow until we’re eventually able to see the same things from a different, more objective perspective.
Thus, I think it might be fun to try a series of observations with feedback intended for our future selves. We would be sent the feedback file after a safe amount of time – once we’d no longer feel so attached to our performance and so dependent on the conclusions of the observer. It could take days, weeks or months. Anyway, we would definitely get more time to think about our lesson and I’m convinced that we’d uncover most of the flaws ourselves. Then, when reading the delayed feedback, either positive or negative, we’d probably only catch ourselves nodding in agreement all the time …