When reading through my notes from a recent teacher observation, I realized that all the feedback was very direct and it was only from my perspective – solutions and strategies that I have used in the past or resources I found online and thought would work well.
I decided to reword my feedback, and turn it into questions. The result has been amazing. Now, when I meet with teachers, rather than telling them what I think they should do, I ask them to share what they think might work.
For example, when observing a first grade writing workshop, I noticed that a few students were having trouble getting started writing after the mini-lesson. Once they returned to their seats, they seemed a bit lost. In the past, I have used a checklist that students would put at their table or in their notebook to remind them of what to do. I made a note to suggest this to the teacher. But instead of making this suggestion, I turned it into a question: How can we help students remember what to do when they return to their seat?
And, the teacher came up with brilliant solutions (not a checklist!) that are more meaningful and relevant to his class – and it is more meaningful to him because he is the one that came up with them. Even if his solutions didn’t work, I think it is still more beneficial for me to ask questions and encourage teachers to find their own answers.
It isn’t always easy, for me or teachers. Sometimes I ask a question and the teacher responds, “I don’t know – you’re the expert.” But, showing them that I trust them to find the answer is helping to build stronger relationships, and showing them that I will be there for support builds their confidence to try something new.
I can’t assume that all teachers should be following the same strategies that I think are best. Asking questions like “why,” “what if,” and “how” will help both me and my colleagues find new, innovative strategies and solutions.