Let’s begin this post with a story:

Several years ago, I was doing my final student teaching stint for my Masters Degree and preparing for my future after college (a non-traditional student).  My supervisor from college was a Science Teacher and very nazi-like about what she wanted us to do.

I knew this and should have never picked a science class for her to observe! In my defence, I was also stressed out because my husband had almost died from a bleed out in his innards somewhere and my father was deathly ill — Streptococcus agalactia had eaten part of his heart and more.  I would teach during the week and head to the hospital on the weekends.  We almost lost him a few times, but he’s still kicking now.  I was way behind on my Capstone paper, (another lovely story) and still recovering from a series of surgeries a year earlier that had taken it out of me.

Rock strata Rock strata beside a forestry road...

Rock strata Rock strata beside a forestry road in the Dyfi Forest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Feels like TMI?  So, at my first observation, I decide to do a science lesson about rock layering.  I did not have enough time or resources to have each child make his or her own jar of rock strata, so I did one big one.  The kids loved the lesson.  Ms. Nazi did not.

I had evidently said something (as an aside about dirt that was not part of the lesson) that wasn’t true.  When I got back for her to talk to me, she let me have it with both barrels.  She ranted and raved.  Told me I lied, etc.  All of this was in front of my classroom teacher (and in hearing of the students).  Both of us looked like a deer caught in the headlights.  The woman finished her rant and went her way, leaving a broken woman behind her.

If I had not had the extra stress, I might have been able to think more clearly and ask for clarification.  As it was, I took it to heart, and I almost didn’t recover.  It effected me almost the whole rest of my student teaching time.

All that to say this:  that is an example of non-constructive criticism.  This woman did not tell me what I said that was wrong; she gave me no credit at all for the lesson; she did not act as a professional.  Her criticism devastated me instead of helping me become a better teacher.

Most people give non-constructive criticism, at least sometimes.  Criticism is essential to growth, but given in the wrong way does absolutely nothing toward helping the person criticized.  All it does is give the criticizer ‘holier than thou’ feelings and either anger or frustrate the criticizee.  A useless waste of breath and energy, it should never occur.  Non-constructive criticism always breaks down communication.

How do you criticize?  Do you ride a high horse or think carefully about your words before speaking/writing?

Tune in tomorrow for part II of this story. 🙂

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