1. Brian Kuhn said:

    Ya… sure… this is an area I struggle with. I often let things stew rather than face issues with team members straight on. My excuse would be that I have team members that are tricky to provide coaching to or to be a critical friend for. A lot of people seem to read into things intentions that aren’t there. It’s a struggle for me to navigate. That said, I think your comments are correct and this is an area I need to improve in. Thanks for the challenge!

    October 29, 2010
  2. Remi Collins said:

    I too struggle with this. The challenge that I found, or used as an excuse, is that as a small school you often feel like family. You always see the person in the office, staff room photocopy room and worry about damaging the relationship and causing a rift in the relationship. I felt that I would take it for the team, rather than disturb the flow. The problem is that by not addressing the issue, the problem can actually fester and begin to impact the entire staff and not just the one or two involved and you can lose the entire staff by not dealing with it. The other point that comes to mind is that, as a teacher, I expected my principal to address those very issues. If those were my expectations as a teacher, then they should be my expecations of myself as a principal. Uncomfortable or not, it needs to be done.

    October 29, 2010
  3. The way I got at this was to ask the teacher to reflect on the issue that I spotted. This would be after I told the person my positive impressions of some of what they did. The old Dr. Phil routine can also work for you. His basic line was “how is that working for you.” If something doesn’t work, that is about what you want to say. It is important to have the teacher reflect on their own performance more than it is for you to tell them where they screwed up.
    Douglas W. Green, EdD

    October 29, 2010
  4. David Truss said:

    I don’t pretend that I always go there… I did recently and at great expense to the person I dealt with. Not fun for me, a potential life-altering experience for someone else. However, this was somewhat easy though, in that the question, “What’s best for the kids” had not just a clean-cut answer but also a very critical and contrasting answer. When the decision to be made is less critical is when I personally struggle with ‘going to the hard places’.

    Combining thoughts in Brian & Remi’s comments people will often read into feedback intentions that are not there… and you have to work with these people daily. Another issue is how much feedback to give? Whether you sugar coat it or not, too much feedback can result in overload or push-back. Overload is almost always unproductive, push-back might just be another hard place worth going?

    I really appreciate the suggestions Douglas gives. I think there are many instances where asking “How is that working for you?” can be very helpful, or as my friend always asks, “Help me to understand…” which asks for justification. Once you have the justification, you can help the person find alternative approaches to get there. (I often help coach parents to ask this question when they struggle with a teacher, it is a respectful way for them to broach a question with teachers around areas of practice – ‘Please help me to understand how a zero for a late assignment helps my child to meet the learning outcomes’.)

    Something to consider is that most teachers who are reflective about their practice are easy to approach and giving feedback to them isn’t really ‘going to the hard places’. It’s the teachers that do not see an issue with their practice that don’t appreciate the feedback and “How is that working for you?” can get a response of “Great!”.

    I don’t think of ‘critical feedback’ as necessarily ‘going to the hard places’.

    It only gets hard when the person isn’t prepared to take the feedback, or doesn’t think that the feedback is warranted, or isn’t ready or capable of meeting expectations. In these cases I think the approach needs to be very situational-based and this is when the ‘hard places’, at least for me, are very hard indeed!

    Thank you so much for your comments. As you can see from my response, I’m still ‘thinking out loud’ about my own approach to going to the hard places. Like Douglas said, “It is important to have the teacher reflect on their own performance more than it is for you to tell them where they screwed up.” This isn’t about being right, it’s about doing the right thing… when doing so is a hard place to go.

    October 29, 2010
  5. Ali Reynolds said:

    I am in Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class at the University of South Alabama. This post was great. I agree with what you had to say and must say that I am guilty of what you talked about. I feel like people do “let things slide”. People tend tip toe around other people’s feelings because they do not want hurt anyone’s feelings. I know that in order to be an effective teacher, you must give critical feedback. I understand that people do get confused thinking that critical feedback has to be negative. I agree that it doesn’t have to be negative. I hope you can check out more of my comments at reynoldsaliedm310.blogspot.com

    November 2, 2010
  6. […] Truss wrote a blog post that addresses this idea from a professional standpoint, Going to the Hard Places.  Talking to someone about how they need to improve is not easy, but something that needs to be […]

    January 2, 2011
  7. Cathy Molumby, Supt said:

    Three words: “Fierce Conversation” training. I participated in the training multiple times and would do so again. It is great training and protocols for administrators (for ALL educators). Our school also piloted the Fierce Conversations for Teens. Great skills!

    September 26, 2011

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