As a new teacher, I find even when I solicit feedback directly from students, families, and colleagues, I sometimes feel like I am not hearing the whole story. For whatever reason, I think these people are holding back, and based on conversations I have had with teachers at my own school and others around California, I assume that this is true not only for teachers but administrators as well. I wonder whether we would benefit from knowing what everyone really thinks and whether there is a way to open up conversations without damaging relationships.
It seems to me that individuals are more likely to give input they think is "safe," even if it does not reflect their most pressing concerns, and there is a missed opportunity for us to learn from others. You might be familiar with the collaboration norm "hard on content, soft of people." I think that in practice we might not be hard enough on content because we are disproportionately concerned about being soft on people. How can we actually do both things at the same time?
I have spent a lot of time thinking about structures that can be used in schools to generate honest discourse where individuals do not necessarily have positive, longstanding relationships. I will share a few of them that I think would give me a better chance of garnering honest feedback and improve the dialogue at my school.
Blogging my work as a teacher, educational consultant, speaker, and host of New Books in Education.