I received this written question when I was 12.
It was written at the bottom a piece of work I had done in English. It was the only comment that I received.
I was stumped.
I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with this.
Was the work so awful that the teacher doubted that it could be mine?
Was the work so great that the teacher doubted that it could be mine?
To this day, I have no idea, for the quality of my work quickly became the least important thing about this particular situation.
I decided that, as this was a question, I would answer it.
So, next to “Is this your work?”, I wrote, “Yes”.
Moments later, the teacher, Mrs T, spotted what I had done and hauled me out in front of the class.
“What’s this?” she asked, wafting my book in front of the class and jabbing her finger at my “Yes”.
“Well,” I explained, “You asked me a question, so I thought I’d better answer it.”
Apparently, this sparked a flame in Mrs T and her tone became bitey and harsh.
“Who do you think you are, writing in your book?!”
This sentence has stuck with me. It is one of the most non-sensical things I’ve heard and, even at the tender age of 12, I knew it.
I also felt that Mrs T was being totally unreasonable. She had written something that left me confused rather than it helping me know how I’d done and where I could improve, and she had asked a question that, in my innocence, I thought needed answering.
So I said…
“I’m sorry Mrs T, but I would say that I am exactly the person who should be writing in my book.”
Evidently, this poured petrol onto the flames that I had previously sparked.
Mrs T exploded and banished me from the classroom, threatening a detention; which I later had quashed by stating my case, logically and calmly, to the Head of Year.
While this experience taught me nothing about how to improve my writing (if, indeed, it needed improving ~ I never found out), it was an experience that taught me lessons that have stuck for life…
* Feedback needs to be clear and help you improve
* A positive relationship can be ruptured in seconds ~ both my * relationship with Mrs T and the relationship Mrs T had with the class, were damaged.
* If you ask a question, never be annoyed with someone for answering it.
* Never blame someone for pointing out a flaw in your argument. After all, it was you that put the flaw there in the first place. Accept this ‘pointing out’ gracefully and use it as a springboard for quality discussion.
While these learnings were made by 12 year old me, they hold true in adulthood; between adults and with oneself.
When we give feedback, is it something that the other person can really use to build upon and improve?
Are we nurturing robustly positive relationships with others?
Have we ever asked a question of someone and then chastised them for answering it?
In the heat of the moment, have we ever said something nonsensical, had the other person call us out on it, and then lost the plot?
You know what?
We’re all human.
We’re all fallible.
And... we all have opportunities to role-model ways of being that will build positive, open relationships and stand others, and ourselves, in good stead.
To your success
Children’s Author and Advocate of Children as new visitors and true novices on the blue-green marble known as Earth.
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