Why We Need Feedback

Last week was the week of feedback. Feedback for me, feedback from me.

Let's start with the feedback FOR me.

My three year old son attends a preschool two mornings a week. For Mother's Day, they made cards for the mom's--a drawing on the outside ("Oh look, a circle," I said. "No mommy, it's a WHEEL.") and on the inside was a complete-the-sentence paper. My mommy's name is...(Mommy), My mommy's favorite color is....(green), My mommy and I like to...(go outside), My mommy's favorite thing to do is...(CLEAN THE KITCHEN!).

Which made me laugh because cleaning the kitchen isn't really my favorite thing to do at all. But then it made me think because I could see how my little boy might think it's my favorite thing to do. I do clean the kitchen. A lot. Sometimes because I'm avoiding other things that I need to do, sometimes because it's easy for me to do, sometimes because I need to see progress somewhere (even if it's the same place over and over again), and sometimes because I don't have to think while I'm doing it, which is usually when creative ideas pop into my mind (like what I'm going to write about on IndistarConnect this week).

If I'm honest, it's probably often at the expense of doing other things that are also important, even more important--like reading to my kids or sending a card to a friend or visiting with a neighbor, or picking up the phone and asking a colleague how their new job is going, or something new and different altogether. And hard. And probably uncomfortable. Whether it was intended to serve as feedback or not, and even if it was the first thing that popped into his head so that he could hurry and get back to cars and trucks, it was feedback. And I will be looking for more intentional ways to collect it from now on--from family, from colleagues, and from friends.

It was just three words that let me know how closely I am being watched and observed and how my choices and actions convey to others (correctly or not) what I value.

Feedback From Me

Shortly after receiving the Mother's Day card, I received an electronic survey from my daughters' school. The subject heading read, "School Leadership Survey" which got my attention. I work with school leaders, study them, and look for ways to share what they do with others who would benefit from their lessons and experience. Needless to say, I opened the email right away. 

The survey was comprised of questions that addressed the leadership standards that the system uses. I should start by saying how impressed I was that the school was administering this survey to parents in the first place. It's not often an easy thing to ask for feedback, but it is almost always the right thing. It might offer a little insight into how our interactions with others and the decisions we make about how we spend our time are interpreted by those around us.

As I was answering the questions (ten, asking me to rate the extent to which the principal does this or that) I just couldn't help rewriting the questions in my head. They were okay, they were a start. They were clearly taken straight out of the standards of effective leadership that the school uses in its strategic planning guide, so they were aligned to the effort. But I wondered how useful the responses would be to a principal who was really looking to understand how their leadership, and as an extension their school community, was perceived. Would it really give them specifics for where they might look to improve, what they might consider doing differently? I wondered how a few open-ended questions with space for ideas and suggestions might open up a whole new perspective to that principal, how just the right turn of phrase from a hurried parent's quick, honest response might lead to some thoughtful and intentional positive change and growth.

What I Would Want To Know

Then I wondered if the same survey was administered to the teachers (it was) and I thought, again, how great to ask for feedback. But if I were the principal, what would I want to know from my teachers? Most certainly, my first question would start with:

My principal's favorite thing to do is...

When I see my principal, this is what he/she is usually doing...

I wish my principal would do more of this...

I love it when my principal...

I do not love it when my principal...

I would love to see this happening in my school....

I wish I/we had more time to...

I think my school is a place where...

Here is one piece of advice for my principal...

Here is one thing I would like my principal to know about me as a teacher....

Here is what I would like my principal to know about my students....

If I could change one thing about my school it would be this...

Here are some ways I would love to see my principal help me grow as a teacher and/or as a future leader...

This is how my principal supports me...

This is where I could use more support...

Another angle to take is to start with Indistar's indicators of effective practice for leaders. Those could easily be put into feedback-eliciting language, or modified slightly to allow for some open-ended responses. I just did a search for principal survey's and this post from Connected Principal's popped up, definitely worth reading: http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/11551 and she has some really great survey questions too.

What To Do With The Answers

The author of that post spends a little bit of time talking about what to do with the results once you get them (to share or not to share). Of course it depends on the unique circumstances, but as you prepare for a new year (which will be here before you can say..."Do the mosquitos get worse every year or is it just me?" and for the record, it's not you, they do) then think about how the responses you receive can help you and your leadership team shape and inform the tasks you build into Indistar for next year. In that way, you're not just sharing the results, you are showing them that you heard their voices, that you are turning their feedback into actions that they will see and benefit from in their own practice. 

And if they tell you that your favorite thing to do is to clean the kitchen, well, you're not alone and there could be worse things. Then call me, we'll figure out how to change that perception one scrub of the counter at a time.

What To Do Next

  1. Leave a reply in the comment section below. What would you want to know from your teachers, your students, your families?
  2. Leave a reply letting us know what you REALLY think of IndistarConnect 
  3. Create your own survey. I've included a few links to some electronic survey services are below.

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For You.

You are busy, the world is big, and the amount of information in it is bigger. So we thought we would create a place where you can find useful, relevant, and interesting information that is also relevant to your work and the indicators of effective practice you have come to know and love. One place.

Use the information for your own personal development, even better, use it with your team! 

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