Giving Feedback to Students and Parents – by Cheri

Yes, it is that time of year when everyone wants to know how they did.  Students want to know if they “passed that test”…parents want to know if “their child is being promoted to the next grade level”…everyone wants feedback!  And, I don’t know about you, but I had to learn HOW to give good feedback!  I had to learn WHAT is good feedback that will actually make a difference!

I think back to my first year of teaching…and I promise….I probably told a student and their parents (and maybe more than one) that their child did OK…OK????  What does OK mean?  And, as a parent already, I didn’t want to hear that my own child was doing OK!  But, I remember why I used that word…I didn’t want to crush a student by giving bad news at the end of the year (if that is what was needed), and I knew as a parent, I didn’t want to hear anything bad about my own child right at the end of the year, so my word became…OK.

And, as all good teachers do, I had to spend time reflecting on this and learning better ways to give feedback!  As I did learn, I found that the type and way you give feedback can definitely make or break a student…forever!  So, here are some tips below!

  • My BIGGEST tip today…don’t wait until the end of the year to give students and parents your concerns!  The end of the year report card should NOT be the first time a parent or student has heard that you are concerned with the progress the student has made!  Communicate early and communicate often!  BEST tip you will ever get…I promise!
  • Reflect on your own mindset…do you believe all students can learn?  Students may not all learn in the same way or within the same timelines, but once you focus on the fact that all students can make progress, you will see the progress stand out!  And once you begin to see it, and communicate it, students change!  They begin to believe they can learn also!  Hmmmm…I bet that makes a difference in a child’s progress!
  • Sometimes it is not about what you say, but how you say it!  I remind my staff about this all the time!  I know it is pretty easy to say something like…Johnny, you are always talking and driving the other students crazy!  Now…Johnny feels bad…the other students feel bad because they know Johnny drives them crazy!  It may be true that he does drive them crazy, but what if you said…Johnny, I know you enjoy talking about what you did this weekend at home, but if you can stay on task right now, I will have time to allow you to share what you did later, after we finish the assignment.  Johnny now believes he is going to get his time to talk…he understands that the learning is important….and he knows that if he gives you time, you will give him time.
  • Be honest about academic progress…but use the sandwich approach!  I always have found that when I had to give serious information (especially with struggling students), it was best to “sandwich” that information between two positive things about a student.  For example, I may say, Ms. Dixon, Kimberly has been doing a great job of working with her team this year.  She helps the team learn so much new information.  However, Kimberly has been having some difficulty with her talking in class.  I know she has a lot to share, but we must try hard to keep her focused.  I am concerned she will be talking during a time that I am sharing important information and she will miss it.  Now, Kimberly is very bright and I know you want her to be one of our top students, just as I do.  I am sure we can get this small issue resolved easily so she can excel in class….got the information across to the parent I wanted to share, but still kept the focus on Kimberly’s intelligence and academic success…especially because I know Kimberly’s mom and she only wants the best for her (hmmm….wonder who that mom is? :)!

These are just a few easy tips to follow that can have a BIG impact on your classroom, parent communication, and student progress.  I hope that as you are wrapping up your school year, you are continually finding ways to effectively give feedback to students and parents in a way that will encourage students to continue to do their best!  Teachers That Sparkle loves to hear any suggestions out there!  Feel free to share!

Sparkle on, my friends!

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