Feedback can be scary

I recently experienced something in my learning that made me empathise with my students… Absolute confusion around something I was supposed to be learning about, followed by a sense of failure, melancholy, and general woe. How?! Well, I got my first assignment back from uni.

Don’t worry, I passed, but just.ย 

Some of you might be thinking that I’m being overdramatic, and looking back, I think I was too, but let me explain.

I’ve been struggling along with one of my courses. I have little to no experience in it. Thanks to my RPL credit I did not do the prerequisite courses at my current uni to support my learning and I definitely feel I’ve been thrown in the deep end. There’s a lot of readings and very little time. I was reading what I was supposed to two, sometimes even three times and it still went mostly over my head! I ended up submitting my assignment (which I was actually quite proud of) and it only just passed. I told myself when I submitted it that I would treat it as a draft. I told myself that I would take the feedback on board as I’d never done anything like this before. When I submitted it I was optimistic that I was on the right track but when I read through the feedback I deflated quicker than a balloon. When my husband came home later that night, I cried like a baby and told him I wasn’t smart enough to do this.

Well, it’s been over 48 hours and I’ve gone back through the feedback and I realise now that I was being overdramatic. Yes, I did only just pass (we’re talking 16/30 here…) and yes, there is a lot of work for me to do to get my second assignment up to scratch but I’m ready.

I’ve had my moment of self doubt, panic, and fear. I know that lots of my students feel that sense of doom when they get back a draft with corrections all over it, but just as I tell them, I told myself: now I know where I stand. I know what’s expected and I know how to move forward.

I should be proud of the fact that I passed my first assignment using a research methodology I had never encountered before and learning in a style that doesn’t suit me. I worked my butt off and I learnt from the experience.

One of the biggest things I realised is that I had taken the feedback way too personally. I thought that I, as a human, was a failure (and I wasn’t, because I passed). I had to remind myself that I am not my work. My work needs critiquing for it to be better and when that happens the person giving me feedback is not critiquing me. Once I put that distance between me and my work I was much more receptive to the feedback and I was able to take it all on board to improve it.

However, next time I see that look of doom in my students’ eyes when they receive feedback that doesn’t go quite the way they thought it was, I will certainly have even more empathy and compassion for them. I will also be able to tell them that it will be ok, that they are not their work, and they need to learn from this.ย 

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