Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.
Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi - 13th century mystic
At the meditation ashram where I sometimes have the privilege of teaching hatha yoga classes, the teachers debrief after each and every class.
Reflecting on your teaching with others is a valuable way to improve your skills as a teacher, acknowledge your strengths and identify areas for growth. The last of course is the most delicate and least comfortable for most of us.
Teaching yoga is a highly personal endeavour. Dedicated teachers put themselves out there every time they take their seat at the front of the room. We teach out of a love for the practice and they -both teaching and practice - are dear to us. This high degree of personal investment makes us vulnerable. It may cause us to fear entering into a dialogue and miss the golden opportunity to receive constructive feedback.
It requires courage to disengage from the voice of the inner critic and take an honest look at our teaching, which includes owning our strengths and embracing where we can develop.
Whether you are on the giving or receiving end of offering feedback, here is a 4-step process that really works to focus the conversation on growth and positive development:
1. What worked?
a. TEACHER: Share what you felt worked about your class, what you felt good about. Be specific. Extract your strengths as a teacher.
b. FEEDBACK-GIVER: Share what you felt worked well. Be specific and give examples. Reinforce what has been shared by the teacher if you agree.
2. How about?
a. TEACHER: Reflect on what could be done differently for next time. Phrase it as a question beginning with How about. For example, “How about I remember to speak in a loud and clear voice so it is easy for the students to hear me?” Be specific.
b. FEEDBACK-GIVER: Share your “how abouts” following the same process.
Rule: The amount of “how abouts” given should always be less than the amount of what worked by at least 50%, and never more than 3.
Phrased as a How about? feedback accomplishes several things:
1. It empowers the person on the receiving end with a specific, clear and actionable ways to move forward.
2. It bypasses the voice of the inner critic.
3. The positive phrasing tells the receiver what to do rather than regret what they have already done, thereby creating new and empowered possibility rather than dwelling on what seemed to be wrong.
The power of good, specific feedback is that it points out what works and what can be added to make it even better instead of playing on the no-win territory of right and wrong.