Thursday, January 16, 2014

Feedback: It's All Good

"Hey Tony, when you get a chance can you come by my office so I can give you some feedback from my visit to your school yesterday?" The word I dreaded... the word that meant something went wrong... the word that meant things were not as good as I viewed them... the word that meant something negative was coming up... FEEDBACK! I am not quite sure why I viewed this word in such a negative way but I could trace its roots back to my days as a high school and college student. Anytime a teacher or professor had feedback for me I immediately braced for the bad news - what did I do wrong?? From those days over 20 years ago, the word FEEDBACK carried a very negative connotation in my world... nothing good could come from FEEDBACK because I always took it personally. 

Well, I am happy to share that all started to change about five years ago when I started my position as the Lead Learner at Cantiague. I can't exactly pinpoint what brought about the change - maybe I was more mature (unlikely if you know me well), maybe I had a thicker skin (I am sensitive so this one doesn't make much sense either) or maybe it was just that I started to realize that FEEDBACK was an opportunity to grow... an opportunity to learn... an opportunity to get better... an enhancement opportunity. In reality, there was nothing negative about FEEDBACK because it all boiled down to how I received it, processed it and how I used it. I control what happens with the FEEDBACK. I control how I respond to FEEDBACK. I control if and how I respond to FEEDBACK. The F word is no longer one that I fear; instead, I embrace it, welcome it and look at it as an opportunity to get better and fuel breakthroughs!

This week we had the honor of hosting the awesome Chris Lehman (Yes, Mr. I Love Close Reading) at Cantiague and it was a day I will not forget because it featured lots and lots of awesome FEEDBACK! In three short hours, Chris visited almost every classroom at Cantiague and used his critical lens to help us figure out ways to enhance our craft... to do better by our kids... to grow as teachers and learners! Chris saw everything we were doing well and immediately offered suggestions on how we could do things REALLY well by giving us specific, honest and best of all, actionable FEEDBACK. All the ideas he offered us were opportunities for us to get better collectively - who doesn't want to get better? Why would anyone want to stay the same or get worse? I am pretty sure Peyton Manning analyzes film of his own play each week and scrutinizes it as a way to get better - he wants to be even better as the Broncos QB from one week to the next - he does not want to stay the same - he wants to be the best! 

If Manning can see the positive in FEEDBACK, so can we as educators! Instead of viewing FEEDBACK as a dreaded word wrapped in negativity let's view it as the gate that opens up to a pathway of positivity. A pathway filled with opportunities, chances and learning. For example, Chris reminded us about the importance of having kids write frequently in their writer's notebooks as a way to take ownership over the own writing and to help them enhance their skill set (yea, kids need to be reading and writing every single day if we want them to enhance their literacy skills). Did it hurt a little when Chris pointed out something we weren't doing well? Yes, it did. But, only for a moment because I realized I controlled how I took in his FEEDBACK! Instead of seeing it as something we weren't doing well, I saw it as something we could do better; something we could challenge ourselves with; something that would enhance the learning experiences of our kids. The FEEDBACK Chris offered was awesome and I was immediately inspired by the opportunity to grow and enhance our craft. The FEEDBACK Chris shared with us reminded me that FEEDBACK ain't all bad!   

So, moving forward I challenge all the educators out there to shed their fears of FEEDBACK and instead, embrace it head on and use it to get better. We must learn to offer FEEDBACK to students, teachers and leaders and we must practice receiving FEEDBACK in a positive way... in a way that allows us to grow and enhance our skill set. We must remember that FEEDBACK ain't all bad!  


  1. Great post, Tony. I think something that is interesting is that it seems easier to give feedback than to receive it. Feedback you receive from someone puts the ball in your court and you can do with it what you want. Seldom do people follow up after giving feedback. It's like they have let go of something for someone else to now have to deal with. Let's all remember that feedback also requires follow through with those who receive it. Showing your support will make feedback even less bad.

  2. Great post! One of my favorite quotes is "there's no such thing as bad data!" Thanks for reminding us we are always looking for ways to grow :)
    Jennifer Kloczko