TCHERS' VOICE / Professional Learning

Beyond Being Nice


When I was in the classroom, I had the good fortune to have a team teacher. We were very similar in our personalities, and that sometimes caused tension, especially when we were first getting to know each other. The first few weeks of our five year relationship were very cordial. We were testing the waters and seeing how the other person operated in the classroom. We tried to figure out how to make our teaching styles and pedagogical beliefs work together, all while getting to know our new students and some of our colleagues. We joked later on that it was like all the adults were dressed for prom, done up in their best outfits and afraid to get dirty. Lucky for me, about a quarter way into the school year, the prom dresses "came off" and we quickly moved into giving each other critical feedback on practice and really tried to mesh our styles and beliefs, not just make them work.

[caption id="attachment_238654" align="alignright" width="86"]Prom night - 1999 Prom night - 1999[/caption]

With video feedback, it is often the same process. "Great job!" "Nice strategy!" "I like how you said that!" "Good work!" Those happy, feel good statements are a fine way to start engaging in the work. They offer a low barrier for entry and provide a sense of safety -- that if I share my practice via video, I will get affirmations for my work. After all, so many teachers are afraid to be vulnerable and even tape themselves. Shouldn't we give them some positive reinforcement to continue the process? Absolutely. But my question to you is: When are you going to take off the prom dresses?

It wasn't until my teammate and I took ours off that we were truly able to become better teachers and learn from one another (and it turns out we had a lot of growing to do). Being nice wasn't what we needed. Being nice wasn't helping either of us get better in our teaching practice. Getting beyond nice and critically examining each other's practice is what allowed us to grow as educators, and that came with some challenging conversations that we chose to engage in to better the facilitation and instruction for our learners.

The beauty of video analysis, especially if you are working in Teams, is that you have the chance to really see what colleagues are doing and examine the same clip multiple times from different perspectives. Teaching Channel is here to help you do just that -- move past affirmations and give your colleagues more meaningful feedback through video notes and discussions. Our Pinterest board is designed to give you quick protocols that take the prom dresses off and get to the meat of what you're viewing.

Pinterest Board for Beyond Being Nice

Let's be clear too, that being nice isn't the same as saying things nicely for improved growth and delivering the necessary feedback to push someone's thinking or practice. We think the protocols on our board help frame things nicely while still encouraging growth. I appreciate when my colleagues treat me well, but I appreciate it more when they challenge me and inspire me to get better at what it is I'm doing. So jump into deeper video analysis with us. Be nice over coffee and be kind and specific in your feedback.

Try out some of these strategies and share what you're learning with the Tch community by adding a comment below. Have another you'd like to see pinned to the board? Let us know and we'll add it!

Erica Snyder is the Engagement Coordinator for Teaching Channel. Prior to her work here, she worked as a Digital Learning Designer and School Development Coach for New Tech Network (NTN). She has taught ninth grade ELA and Social Studies in Chicago and Charlotte. Follow her on Twitter: @snyder_erica.

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