Dealing with Disappointment

We talk a lot about student engagement and motivation, but a whole lot less about what de-motivates, or disengages learners.

My personal “aha” this week is that one of the best ways to shut someone down is to have them experience a failure that they don’t understand.  Set up criteria, have them provide evidence of having met it, and then tell them they didn’t succeed, but without any explanation.

In my case, I know I’ll get the feedback eventually, and I’m sure it will make sense and I’ll eventually feel fine about it.  However, in the meantime, I’m investing all sorts of negative energy into trying to figure out where I went wrong.  This is wasted, unproductive energy that would be much better put to use moving forward, rather than wallowing in disappointment.

So, as teachers, working with students, we need to:

  1. Set, or even better co-construct, clear criteria for success.
  2. Assess and evaluate
  3. Provide both the pass/fail AND the detailed feedback, as close to simultaneously as possible.
  4. Determine next steps, and begin the cycle again.

As administrators, when hiring, we need to:

  1. Set clear criteria
  2. Assess and evaluate
  3. Provide both the decision AND the detailed feedback as close to simultaneously as possible.
  4. And if we are mentoring this teacher/TA/office-assistant then we need to set them back on the path with hope and optimism.

If we don’t, then we run the risk of shutting down the very initiative, enthusiasm and energy that we are trying to nurture.

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