Most of us have been there, that moment when we do not appreciate the feedback and comments regarding our work.

Feedback, even if it is meant to be constructive and focused on improvement, can be really tough to take at times. Develop a thick skin, we may have been told. As much as we can try to let some of the feedback that we receive wash off like water off a duck’s back, some of it inevitably will stick and it may hurt too.

Feedback can be particularly painful when we are working hard, long hours with scant reward and those providing the feedback have no idea what we are dealing with. It, therefore, may be a surprise to others that when they make a suggestion, a comment for improvement, they receive a look or a comment that tells them that their constructive criticism is not wanted. Well, at this point in time at least.

When we are overloaded and trying our very best to cope, we generally do not respond well to very much. Further to that, we have a life outside of our schools that puts huge stress on us that is so often unseen.

Feedback is received best when we have the space to deal with it and given the time to do so.

This requires a lot of sensing on the part of school leaders to determine what feedback to give someone and when. Sometimes, we have to leave certain things unsaid, as they may end up doing more damage in the long run. It means we have to consider carefully the relationships we have and whether or not they are strong enough to both give and receive feedback that really focuses on us getting better and improving schools.

We need to also take into account that most of us are passionate educators with common purpose, which means we will invest a great deal of effort into what we do. Sometimes, our efforts are misguided and we, certainly, could be more effective and efficient in what we do.

So, opportunities to step away from the busyness of our work and genuinely take to reflect are crucial to us being able to deal with feedback, which at other times could tip us over the edge in our struggle to cope with what others say we need to do.


Published by Richard Bruford

Richard is currently Secondary School Principal of Suzhou Singapore International School, one of China's leading international schools. He leads workshops across the Asia-Pacific region for the International Baccalaureate in the areas of pedagogical leadership and approaches to teaching and learning. Richard consults with schools on the topics of school improvement and effective implementation and use of technology. With a background in public and independent school education in the UK and Australia, Richard is enjoying his international school adventure in China. He is passionate about developing and supporting educational leaders, as it is essential to improving all schools. Richard is a proud family man and feels lucky to be married to Kim and father of their son Austin. In his spare time Richard enjoys to swim, bike and run and is a now retired football player and coach (with occasional guest appearances)

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