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You’re heading into the second half of the school year in one of the most challenging years for education on record. Add in the exhaustion of being a new teacher plus things like critical observation feedback, and what do you get? Probably feelings that cause you to question your commitment to the profession. You might even be wondering whether or not you even want to do this job anymore. I get it. I remember feeling that way, too.
Formal observations are one of the things about teaching that really scares us as new teachers. They can just send you right into panic mode, whether you have a really supportive administration or not. You may even feel pretty competent in your teaching, but when another adult is in your room watching you, it’s a whole new level of nerves. You feel like every single move is being analyzed as if you’re under a microscope.
The most nerve-wracking part of a formal observation is what comes after the actual observation. The feedback. 😬 For me, because I cared so deeply about teaching, anything negative that I received on my formal observation hit me really hard. I’m talking immediate tears. I felt like I was trying so hard all the time. I was putting in so many hours, but my best never seemed to be good enough.
It wasn’t until I took what I thought was negative feedback to a teacher friend that I realized that my administrator actually wasn’t really criticizing me. They were just pointing out the areas that I needed to continue to work on, which is exactly what an observation is supposed to do. It's supposed to be an outside observation. It's supposed to be a tool for growth. That’s when my mindset shifted.
I realized that I was the one who was taking the feedback as criticism because I had impossible standards for myself. It's that expectation of I need to be perfect, that so often causes the anxiety that we're feeling. We think that when our administrator analyzes our teaching, we're supposed to be perfect. We think that anything less than perfect is failure. And it's that thought that is actually sending us into a tailspin.
Look, I agree that receiving a critical observation can really make you doubt yourself. It can feel really hard to keep going. The reality is that, yes, we are being observed. But, what if we reframed how we viewed observations? Rather than immediately feeling like we’re being judged, I encourage you to look at it as an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to get some great feedback from someone who's taught for a long time.
Even though it feels like you might be getting criticized more severely than you've ever been criticized, and maybe it's hard to even get up and go to school every day, I really want to help you to take a broader perspective in terms of what this means in your development as an educator. You can move past this phase of critical observation feedback with grace and with a little less stress and anxiety than you might be feeling right now.
It's my hope that after our conversation today, you're going to feel so much more empowered and positive, regardless of the type of feedback that you've been given. Yes, it’s hard. But it will get easier. I believe in you. I know that you will continue to grow, to challenge yourself, and to become the teacher that you've always dreamed of being.
I hope this information is helpful as you prepare for your first, second, or third year of teaching. Until next time, remember, just because you're a beginning elementary teacher, there's no need for you to struggle like one.
Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor
Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at drlorifriesen.com and at howdogshelpkids.com.
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