Our School Expert, Ciara McGuane from Rahoo.ie, gives her advice on how to handle negative feedback from your child's teacher.
Feedback. We know it’s important, we know it’s needed; but when it comes to negative feedback, we don’t want to give it and we certainly don’t want to receive it.
Years ago, I heard the phrase “Feedback is a gift”. It was
during a time in my teaching career where teachers in my school were taking it
upon themselves to visit each other in the classroom and observe each other’s
practice – to learn from each other and to give each other feedback.
We all loved getting the compliments and the positive comments.
The negative ones?
Not so much.
But that was where the learning was and where the most value was – someone has taken the time to be honest. It’s uncomfortable for everyone, and it’s easier not to do it. If someone is taking the initiative to give me “negative feedback”, for my own benefit, I should respect that and listen up.
How to handle negative feedback from your chid's teacher.
We need to rephrase "negative feedback" as “constructive feedback”. Because that is what it is, or what it should be – constructive. None of us is perfect.
This type of feedback from your child’s teacher should highlight something that you may not be aware of and by making you aware of it, it will help you support your child’s education. This is a positive thing.
Depending on the tone of communication, body language, personality and relationship you have with your child’s teacher, it might be difficult to get past the emotions you are feeling and your perception of how it is being communicated to you. Stay calm. Take a breath. Listen to what is being said as rationally as you can.
If you feel like this is something you cannot do, you should re-arrange another time to continue the conversation when you are calm.
Write down what the problem is and what solutions or strategies the teacher is suggesting to you. This will focus the conversation and allow you to recap at the end of the discussion and reflect at a later stage. This will also help you to focus if you are feeling emotionally charged at what is being said.
Find out exactly what your child’s teacher wants or needs from you to support your child. Depending on what the issue is, this can often be some small adjustment to family life. Perhaps limiting access to technology, change in bedtime, organising school equipment or ensuring that an adult reads a book with your child every day. Whatever the issue is, it is vital that you are crystal clear on what steps you need to take to fix it.
Communicate with the teacher how you feel about what he or she is saying. If you disagree, share this in a calm manner. Open up the conversation so you can have dialogue around what has been said. If you agree, share this too and let the teacher know how the school might best support you and your child if you are struggling.
Nobody likes having difficult conversations – it is extremely uncomfortable for most of us and we will avoid these situations as much as possible. Whatever your thoughts are about what has been said, your child’s teacher has taken the initiative to address an issue they think is important enough to be said.
They care about your child and want to do everything in their power to make sure that they are happy and healthy. As do you. It’s a win-win. As upsetting as a conversation like this may (or may not) be, we should try to be grateful when people give us the gift of feedback.