March 20, 2013 by k. liz
One of my husband’s favorite sayings is “chew the meat, spit out the bones.” It’s his way of reminding me that there is usually something good in criticism or feedback, and I should hold on to that, but not get bogged down with whatever doesn’t matter or doesn’t work. It’s a good way to help me remember not to just get defensive or annoyed, but to make the most of every feedback opportunity.
So, I’ve been thinking about this in the last few months as I have had some opportunities for one-on-one feedback on my teaching, philosophies or strategies. Yesterday was a particularly discouraging day as I had tried to specifically implement suggestions, but found that the lesson really did not work with my learners. It was one of a few times this has happened recently.
So, what does it mean? Why am I writing about it? Because it is important to remember that every teacher and every learner is different. That’s a fact, not a hypothesis. Every piece of advice, no matter how tried and true it seems to be, is not completely true for you until you have implemented it. Even then, it is not true for every class you teach, or even every day with the same class. This field of ours is constantly shifting. It is human! The essence of what we do is very human, and it is even more humanistic than other educational fields because we are dealing with language which is a huge part of our identity.
This means that yesterday was a success for me, rather than a failure, because I found out something that doesn’t work for my students. It might be a great piece of advice, and it might work really well with other teachers and other classes, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be done in my class. Now I know.
Grab onto the bad days, find the good, listen to feedback, chew the meat, spit out the bones. You’re changing lives.