During a two-day training held for Cleveland Metropolitan School District leaders last summer, our organization led a session on the importance of feedback. We talked to principals, deans, and other administrators about creating a culture of coaching in their school buildings where feedback is given freely and regularly to all levels of school staff. We also asked leaders what was the downside of not implementing this practice. Here’s what they listed as the major consequences of not giving feedback to their staff and what to begin doing:
We may become complacent.
Without regular and deliberate feedback, teachers may assume that because no one said anything, everything they are doing is fine. Ineffective or even detrimental practices may go unchecked or unnoticed. Many of the administrators I work with often assume that if a classroom isn’t demonstrating outright unsafe behaviors, that everything is ‘good enough.’ Teachers may develop fixed mindsets that go unquestioned without anyone showing interest to improve their practice. However, many teachers welcome and appreciate innovation, best practices, and accountability against classroom goals. They only need an administrator who will support them with feedback to improve student engagement.
How to create change:
Once you’ve normalized a process for giving feedback, you may still feel uncomfortable giving it or teachers may resist. We train coaches to begin to name the impact of ineffective actions that hold both the teacher and students back from being their best.
When feedback is given, we feel judged.
When transparent and regular feedback is not a norm in a school building, I’ve seen that school staff often feel judged when feedback eventually is given. Teachers’ stress level likely increases at the sight of an administrator in the his or her classroom, becoming hyperaware as to why they’re there, what they are looking for and what they’re thinking. This puts relationships and trust in jeopardy. When critical feedback is given, teachers may easily and quickly lose self-confidence because they do not trust that the administrator has a strong commitment to see them succeed and has not invested time in improving their classroom.
How to foster trust:
Give authentic feedback that you know truly matters. Having open dialogue that helps the teacher see the “why” goes a long way to building trust.
Teachers have to guess about what really matters in teaching.
If administrators, staff, or other teachers do not regularly give and receive feedback, teachers are left on their own to ‘figure it out.’ Lack of support from experienced leaders may leave teachers with the right tools but a lack of direction in implementing them effectively. Teachers may also struggle to manage challenging behaviors in their classrooms, therefore unknowingly ignoring major pieces of the formula for a successful year. Without regular observations, touch points, deliverables, and measurable outcomes, teachers may experience ongoing ineffectiveness, may take it out on kids year after year, and some may leave the profession.
How to create and maintain focus:
Praise what you want to see happen every day and state why it matters explicitly. Help teachers prioritize according to classroom or schoolwide goals while focusing on their ability to build life-altering relationships with students and be culturally responsive to students’ needs.
Teachers may feel isolated.
Without schoolwide norms and accountability, teachers may feel like ‘islands’ in their classrooms. On one hand, you may have high-performing teachers who may feel frustrated at a lack of schoolwide implementation and direction. You may also have teachers who really need support who feel they are not a part of the overall success of the school. Their students may wish they were with the ‘good teacher’ or will feel frustrated or confused if they change classrooms throughout the day or in common spaces. Without regular, transparent, and supportive feedback, both teachers will feel isolation, like they aren’t a part of a bigger culture that is achieving something. This decreases motivation, staff efficacy, and results in a negative or disjointed school culture.
How to encourage community:
Accept that one coach or one administrator has the power to change the outcome for a teacher and their students. We train coaches to build strong, trusting relationships with teachers to make them feel like an important part of the school’s community.
Administrators become disengaged.
If school leaders don’t have systems in place to intentionally target growth, they can become lost in the weeds of ever-changing priorities and could easily become burned out and leave their post or profession. They will be disengaged in the most important work of student engagement and the art of teaching, impacting the whole school. Creating a culture of coaching through giving and receiving feedback ensures that there is a system to transform the practices of the school building.
How to create progress:
Ask for feedback from teachers on how effective YOU are to normalize the process of giving and getting feedback. Be transparent about your feedback and goals during staff-wide meetings.
Creating a culture of coaching in your school building may feel like less of a priority than scores, literacy rates, or behavior. However, we know that when staff members aren’t supported, the culture of a school can break down. Spending intentional time cultivating support for teachers is the foundation of a successful school culture and translates into better outcomes for students. Click here to read more about how to create a culture of coaching among the school community.
By William Sprankles, Director of Innovative Teaching and Learning at Butler Tech in Hamilton, OH and Katy McArthur, CT3 Communications Manager
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