Career Advice: Getting Mentor Feedback
Suzanne Tingley on asking for honest mentor feedback and setting boundaries with parents.
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
Getting Mentor Feedback
Q | My mentor has observed my class twice. Though I didn’t feel it went that well, she didn’t tell me anything went wrong. How can I ask for honest feedback?
A | There are three possible reasons your mentor isn’t giving you good feedback: One, she doesn’t want to hurt your feelings; two, she doesn’t know how to give you suggestions for improvement; or three, your lessons were better than you thought.
My guess is that your lessons were a little better than you thought. Teachers are often much more critical of their efforts than their supervisors are. That said, you still need and deserve good feedback if you hope to improve.
Before your next observation, talk to your mentor about specific areas in which you’d like to improve. For example, if you think your classroom management skills are not as strong as they should be, say to her, “I’m having problems with students talking when I’m giving directions. Could you observe and suggest ways I can improve?” Or, “Students don’t get to work when I give them time to start homework. Would you help me get them on track?” After the lesson, when your mentor gives you suggestions for improvement, take care not to be defensive. Instead, follow up with more questions so that she can see you’re serious about improving your skills.
Q | I encourage parents to take an active role, and so I gave out my personal e-mail. One parent e-mails four or five times a day. I can’t possibly answer every question. How should I respond?
A | Good teachers know how important it is to have parents involved—but it’s neither necessary nor advisable to give out your personal e-mail. You need to keep your professional and private lives separate. Otherwise, you’ll have no time to rest and recharge. Teaching requires a great deal of effort and time outside of the school day, but you cannot be on call 24/7.
Send a blanket e-mail with your school e-mail address, and ask parents to use that if they need to contact you. If a parent continues to use your personal e-mail, respond this way: “Please redirect this e-mail to my school account.” Do not answer school-related questions from your personal e-mail.
In general, you do not need to respond immediately to a parent who sends multiple e-mails a day. Wait a day or two and write one response, keeping it short, simple, and courteous.
Your intentions were admirable, but the consequences aren’t in your best interests, and can, on occasion, make some parental relationships worse instead of better.
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Suzanne Tingley is a former teacher, principal, superintendent, and education professor. Her Practical Leadership blog can be found at scholastic.com/administrator.