I am the guy who thinks that he has an amazing singing voice (wow!....so far this example is not too far from reality;) ). I start performing in front of friends and family who all, with uncomfortable smiles and squirmy demeanor, give me positive feedback:
Person: "Wow, Paul, you have a really good voice!"
Me: "I know! Right? I knew I was good, and I am glad people are finally noticing!"
Person (smiling on the outside and cringing on the inside): "Yeah, good job. It was...really good."
After enough of that kind of feedback, I decide to try out on national television for one of those talent shows like America's Got Talent or the X Factor or something like that. I get on stage and belt my song out knowing that I have friends and family back home who have validated my talent.
Suddenly, I'm cut off by the sound of buzzers and I start getting insanely hurtful feedback from the judges. A get a sinking sensation in my stomach and realize my voice isn't as pleasant as I initially thought. My video goes viral on Facebook. Mean (although sometimes clever) people make memes of me and haters ruin my life on social media.
If you think this is far fetched, just Google "worst auditions ever." The only difference is some people are so delusional, that they think the judges are wrong!
I live in the south where many people prefer politeness and fake smiles to genuine honesty. In the example above, what do you think I would have valued more: All the fake accolades....or the one person who would have said, "Paul, you need singing lessons."
Obviously, the truth would have hurt, but it would have been more beneficial and much more loving.
Honesty in the classroom:
As a teacher, I used to give out 100's like hotcakes.
If I saw that I student really put forth an effort into the assignment, it was easy for me to say, "They tried. I'll give them 100." Deep down, I knew this was wrong, but I didn't want to crush the student's spirit. I eventually had to move to black and white grading: either the student got the answer 100% correct or it was completely wrong. The black and white method is good for some instances, but doesn't give place for much creativity from the student.
I recently went to a training that opened my eyes to something so much richer than free 100's.
The training was called "The Encounter", and it was nothing like I have ever experienced before. Part of the process of the encounter was receiving honest feedback from complete strangers about how they experience you. There were times where we had to stand up and say something and people would give us immediate honest feedback.
Since I didn't really know the people in the room (at least not yet), I went out on a limb and gave some really honest feedback. IT WAS SO FREEING!
When it was my turn to receive, some of the feedback hurt, but even what could be seen as negative deep down actually felt amazing. I was receiving an amazing gift: honesty from people who genuinely wanted to see me succeed.
Back to the classroom
That weekend inspired me to rethink my classroom.
Here is what I have thought of so far. I would love you input:
I want feedback to be something that I give as a teacher and that students give to each other. This could be dangerous with high school students, but I will be monitoring closely. I am going to make it a point to build in time to give feedback to one another.
How to give feedback:
The person giving the feedback will always use this statement "I experience you as..." This is not a judgement. A judgement would be "Your presentation was stupid!"
By using "I experience you as..." the students are taking responsibility for their feelings and giving the person honest and loving feedback from their interpretation of their encounter with that person.
"I experience you as shy."
"I experience you as goofing off."
"I experience your presentation as unprepared."
"I experience you as" is more powerful than "I experienced you as (past tense)" because it refers to feelings that are still present.
How to receive feedback:
The person receiving the feedback needs to analyze the feedback as well.
If the person receiving the feedback can relate to what was said, then they simply need to take note. It isn't a matter of "true" or "not true," because the person giving feedback was simply saying their experience. Someone else might have experienced something completely different.
The person receiving simply needs to listen, notice their feelings, and act in a way that they see fit. At the end of the feedback in my classroom we will say, "Thank you for loving me enough to be honest."
I mean....what if someone gets their feelings hurt?
The truth is that I would rather kids get honest and hard feedback now (in a place where I can create a safe environment) than going through their lives believing lies about themselves.
Also, the power of honest feedback makes the negative feedback validate the positive. If someone is honest enough to say something negative, there is more of a chance that their positive feedback is genuine.
Again, I'll let you know how it goes! Thanks to everyone who gave me honest feedback at The Encounter!
What danger do you see in this activity? How would you do it differently?