Feedback: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Every year our school does an EQ 360 review on the leadership team by their position. Our surveys were sent out at a very busy high stress time (although let’s be honest when is it not!) Teachers were given the opportunity to respond to a series of questions and then provide feedback.
Our teaching staff is comprised of about 60 teachers. We have 32 classroom teachers and about 28 specialty teachers including our EAL and Chinese teachers. Of the 60 or so teachers 43 took the time to respond to the survey, 5 teachers signed their names to the feedback and the rest were anonymous.
Not going to lie at first read some of the feedback was a bit tough to swallow. As is the case most of the time we tend to focus on the negative and rarely look to the positive. With some time and opportunity to disect the feedback and to reflect I am overall quite pleased with my first year.
“As we know, the most effective change in schools stems from involving teachers, allowing for voices to be heard, and possible compromises to be met. Teachers have felt with recent decisions that autonomy has been limited and professional judgments have been questioned. My worry that an “us” v. “them” culture is beginning to arise.”
“Sometimes comes off too bold and does not have genuine, mutual conversations; instead, it comes off like a dictator in speaking at the person not with them”
“She doesn’t often come to classrooms (only 30 second intervals to say hi to students) and has
not established a positive relationships with classes. Some students do not know her name or
who she is.”
“Would like to have had more flexibility and open minded attitude to doing things that work in the
classroom or routines in the school. I do not feel this is possible with our current principal.”
Ouch….some of that REALLY stung! The question for me is WHY? Why do some staff feel that there is an us vs them culture? Collaboration? Where is the disconnect there? We as a leadership team feel that we have been collaborative and sought the input of staff? What do staff perceive as collaboration? What are the expectations teachers have of the principal? Flexibility and open mindedness I have always considered strengths what is challenging that perception?
This is my first year in the position and I know that my leadership is different than the previous administrator but I did not think it was THAT different. Is some of this a result of people who struggle with change? Are there personality conflicts? Is it the result of a difficult conversation, discipline or unsatisfactory performance appraisal? Was it a bad day? Are they upset or angry with the position not the person?
5 of the respondents believe that I spend too much time on traditional duties and not enough time in classrooms.
I try really hard to balance the priorities of the job and want and enjoy time in classrooms. I send out my schedule and try and be very transparent with staff about where and how I spend my time. Some of the “managerial” tasks are out of my control and do impact my ability to be in classrooms. We have mandated weekly meetings that usually take up most of Mondays and there have been long stretches of times I have had to devote to things like hiring and recruiting etc. I do work MANY hours outside of the school day to complete those tasks that require sustained focus and attention or to answer or review emails. I recognize that teachers do not really grasp these bigger picture responsibilities and I appreciate that they want the support in their classrooms.
4-5 of the respondents do not believe that they have a voice or input into decision making regarding the academic decisions of the school or feel that there is a collaborative approach.
This is an area that is really confusing for me. I have tried really hard to create an atmosphere that encourages risk taking, collaboration and discourse. I know that with the extended admin team we have lots of opportunities to collaborate, discuss and make decisions together. I try to have an open mind and to listen to the opinions and observations of my staff in order to make informed decisions and implement changes that improve the teaching and learning.
I am really puzzled as to why staff do not feel that they do not have a voice. We have asked for staff feedback from staff around time tables, report cards, professional learning, EAL, extended collaboration time, and a variety of other things. We use the feedback that we gather to inform the decisions that we make and to give teachers a voice. How is this not seen as collaborative? Who’s voice are we missing?
8 respondents feel that I do not provide feedback for growth based on walkthroughs that align with school goals.
This is an area that obviously needs some work. We did communicate our school goals earlier in the year. We do have a framework for feedback and we have tried experimenting with a variety of different methods. Earlier in the year all of our coaches, coordinators and admin team had scheduled visits to classrooms and provided written feedback to staff. This became overwhelming for some teachers at times because we were tripping over each other and giving conflicting messages at time. We decided to back off a bit and try and provide a variety of types of feedback. We have had one on one meetings with our team leads twice this year to give and receive feedback. I spend a great deal of time observing teachers during their formal evaluations and providing detailed strength based feedback for growth. I try and have an open door policy in which teachers can feel free to ask for support or feedback. I ask teachers to invite me to their classrooms if they are doing something they would like me to observe, share or celebrate with them.
By in large I am pleased with the results of the EQ360. I would say that I understand where the feedback is coming from and will work to make changes to improve.
Most of the staff feel that I am supportive and a strong instructional leader. They feel that I have high standards for them but also for myself. They feel that I am open, honest and fair and treat staff equally. They believe that I have the best interests of the school and the students at heart.
I feel that these are accurate reflections of me as a leader. These are the things that I strive for as a leader. I am however committed to continuous improvement and will work to make changes and improve in the areas identified.
My Vice Principal and I have put out an email that has invited staff to come in and talk about the feedback they provided in the EQ360. At this point no one has signed up to do so. In the meantime, I will try and be more visible and get into classrooms to provide more feedback for teachers but before I do that I would like to survey staff to determine how they would like to receive feedback and how often.
Some other things to consider:
Staff Meetings: What should our staff meetings look like? What changes can we make? How do we engage staff more in this process?
Collaboration: Where is the disconnect? How do we provide more opportunities for teacher agency? How do we communicate that we want teachers to take risks, to innovate, to take initiative and to share their ideas with us?
Moral: How do we insure that morale is strong? The last thing we want is an us verse then mentality. How do we create a shared responsibility for the morale of the school?
EQ360s have their place and provide valuable feedback for growth and improvement. I do wish that teachers would be transparent and sign their name to their feedback. This would allow for open and honest dialogue. I also wish that feedback provided was strength based and focused on possible suggestions for growth. It is hard not to take harsh critical feedback personally and although it causes you to pause for reflection it is not constructive or helpful. I wonder how teachers would feel if we as leaders gave them feedback in that manner?
i want staff to know that if they have feedback or criticism they can come with their thoughts and opinions if they do it in a respectful and professional manner, our door is always open.