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Feedback Loops: An Experiment in Hopes of Becoming a Better Teacher/Learner

Since I was never ever a prodigy, I have had to scrape and salvage every single bit of progress in learning music or anything for that matter. The learning process has fascinated me ever since I discovered, painfully, that learning did not come easy for me. I had to work really hard at it and still do. Enter Dr. Adam Grant.

I created an immediate feedback loop in one of my classes after listening to the brilliant Adam Grant describe how he constantly seeks to be a better teacher. (Yet again, I've been challenged by Tim Ferriss's podcast). (BTW - click on that link and enjoy that very podcast. Do it now. No need to keep reading. Really). I asked my class to give me their honest and unfiltered feedback. It was brutal. I did everything in my power not to allow my ego to rise up and defend myself. Here is some of the feedback that I received:

  1. You teach as if you are teaching yourself. In other words, it's as if you are teaching in the style of which you would learn the most.

  2. You need to explore different learning styles and implement ways that address these styles.

  3. Your stories and lectures are often unrelated to the content read during the week.

  4. You accommodate us too much. Stick to the plan and require that students submit assignments on time.

There were more issues that were brought up, but needless to say, I was exposed to the core in front of these students. By far, though, asking for this immediate feedback loop was the best thing that I have done so far in my career as a teacher. Jocko Willink says, "There are no bad teams, just bad leaders." For me, I want to further explore the saying, "There are no bad students, just bad teachers." This is extreme ownership for me as a teacher and something that I want to embrace going forward.

Allow me to explore the above points a bit.

  1. Yes. I acknowledge that I did teach in such a way and created an environment in which, if I was the student, I would learn the most. I did all of the reading when I was a student. I didn't want to be lectured on the content of the reading, I wanted to explore big ideas surrounding the content. I hated the details. I loved the big picture. I still do. But, I need to dive into the details both in my teaching and in my leadership. This lack is my biggest weakness. And so, I am reading about different teaching philosophies and styles in hopes that I can address many different kinds of learners.

  2. Yes. Teaching and telling stories/lecturing is a very natural thing for me. I grew up with a mother who is a professional educator and my father was a natural teacher and instructor in his field. My mentors were all educators growing up. I learned how to teach from them in observation and in absorption of their powers, so to speak. I often joke with my wife that I should have been an education major and gone into public school teaching. She says that I wouldn't have made it. I think she is right. And, as mentioned above, not everyone learns in the same way. I am actively learning how folks learn.

  3. So, I long for discovering and working out the big idea of any topic. One of my mentors, Dr. Samuel Hsu, taught with great analogies and parallel topics. I learned the most from him. Again, during the week and in previous study, I had mastered the content in music history and going to class to read an article by Pierre Boulez on Beethoven just published in the New York Times was invigorating for me. From what I can gather, telling stories and creating substantial analogues is a teaching style that could be considered more from the east than from the west. It could be described as Hegelian or dialectic, perhaps. Moving forward though, I have done my best to 'connect the dots' a bit more in relating my lectures to the content read and explored during the week.

  4. I'm an empath. There were many times as a student where I personally felt that I should have been accommodated with assignment deadlines with stuff going on in my life and work. But, deadlines help the class stick together and helps me to discover where learning is and isn't taking place. I am doing my best to put my heart on the shelf a bit and adhere to the deadlines given for assignments.

I have great students and am privileged to be among them everyday. May we all continue to grow in our areas of expertise. That's my desire. In near future, I hope to have more feedback loops related to how I'm doing as a teacher and will be sure to include the updates on the blog.

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