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Dealing with Feedback You Don’t Like

We’ve all been there. Maybe it happens during a performance review, or perhaps an incident occurred in your program, and changes need to be made. At one time or another, each of us has received negative feedback, and it stings.

There are times when we know we’re in the wrong, and then feedbackthere are times we disagree with what we’re being told. The next choice you make will determine if you can move forward professionally or if you open the door to many more problems in your current position.

Poor choices include:

  • Lashing out
  • Blaming
  • Deflecting
  • Shutting down
  • Offering excuses as to why the behaviour happened

The best course of action is to stay quiet and listen. Make sure you are listening carefully. This is hard to do when you feel like you are under attack, but you must stop your inner voice from taking over. This means that you do not start thinking about how you will respond or why the person delivering the news is wrong/horrible/out to get you. Your job while you are listening is to get very clear on what the problem is. It is your time to put your emotions aside and to make sure you understand the problem. One way to ensure you are clear is to state back what you think you have heard.

“So I am clear, you are saying that I am not supervising the children properly?”

This is the time to ask questions about the issue. You have the right to ask for examples, especially if you disagree with the problem. If you know that you prefer to gossip or be on your phone while in the playground, perhaps questions are unnecessary.

“Could you please give me some examples of when I haven’t been supervising the children properly?”

As examples are being shared with you, you must listen and take notes. If you came to your meeting without pen and paper, it’s a good idea to ask to borrow them now. This lets your supervisor know you are taking this seriously and are looking to improve your performance.

The next step in dealing with negative feedback is probably the hardest. Do not take it personally. Many believe that negative feedback from your supervisor means that they don’t like you. Nothing can be further from the truth!

This feedback is meant to help you change behaviours or seek more training to become a better educator. I can promise you that your supervisor is not lying in bed at night, thinking of ways to make your life hard. They might be lying in bed, worrying about having to deliver this feedback to you, and they hope that you remain open and receptive because they don’t want to lose you.

If you disagree with this information, you have a choice. You can stay quiet, or you can voice your disagreement. If you choose to dispute, do it respectfully and tactfully. Your supervisor’s information or perspective may be very wrong.

“You said that a parent saw me behind a bush in the playground yesterday. The children and I were playing hide and seek at that time, and I deliberately chose that place to hide because I still had a good view of the playground by using it.”

If the information they have shared with you is not wrong, it is in your best interest to show initiative immediately. The initiative can be:

  • Asking for guidance or help
  • Looking for learning opportunities that will strengthen your weak area(s)
  • Developing an improvement plan and sharing it with your supervisor

By taking the initiative, you show your supervisor that you care and that you want to do better. You may need a few days to decide what you are going to do, or you may want to state your intentions to wrap up the meeting.

Now is the time to learn what you can and adapt your practice to align with your program’s vision and philosophy. Remember to check in with your supervisor after two weeks and again in three months to ensure you are on track.

Just like puzzle pieces, each team member is responsible for doing the best job they can. Take heart because if you have a supervisor who is willing to sit down and work with you, the chances are that they are doing the same thing with other team members.

Negative feedback, sometimes called constructive criticism, is not meant to target you or make your life hard. It is given for you to become a better educator. Embrace the idea that your supervisor has enough respect for you to bring their concerns to your attention. Show them the same respect by listening and doing something proactive about it.

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