I was again talking with one of my students this week and we were talking abou interactions with other people.
The particular situation she was experiencing related to one of her lecturers. The lecturer is new at the game and was clearly struggling to gain the confidence of the students and conduct the lecture in a constructive and meaningful way.
My student described how the class was becoming very dissatisfied with the lecturer and were starting to behave in less then helpful ways. There was general dissent and the students were making it known to the lecturer. unfortunately, the lecturer responded in turn, and around it went.
It’s so easy to fall in behind group behaviour and be like all the others. It’s much easier to criticise than it is to help. And much easier to watch than it is to become actively involved.
Our discussion about this took the direction of what she (my student) can do to actually help the situation, rather than make things worth. The idea is that she can actually engage with the lecturer and provide feedback on how things have transpired and how things can b done better.
I know it sounds a little trite – you’re probably thinking that anyone would do that. However, what I’ve noticed is that most people don’t actually do it. It’s simpler and less threatening if you don’t start a conversation about difficult things – i.e. how to give someone constructive feedback when they’re doing a really poor job at something.
The point of this, is that instead of letting things be like they are, get involved, provide feedback, help out – even when you don’t need to and won’t actually gain anything from it. You do it, because no-one else will.
What’s the worst that can happen? They don’t listen, they get angry, they think you’re nosy. But now it’s actually their problem. You made the effort.
Don’t let it dishearten you. In the long run, you’ll make a difference. Most people like receiving feedback, especially when it’s done well. But that’s a topic for another day.
You’re probably asking your self what did I do to help. Well, I rang the Head of School and talked to him about the feedback I was hearing. I asked about how the lecturer was being supported and even made some suggestions about other things that can be done.
Again, what’s the worst that can happen? The Head says ‘thanks but it’s all in hand’. Nope, that didn’t happen. He understood my motive, took the feedback on board and gave me an undertaking to take an active role in supporting the lecturer. It turns out that he didn’t quite realise how things really were.
I would say that that’s a pretty positive outcome – I wonder what would’ve transpired if I hadn’t made the call. Who knows? But at least I did what I could.
Now, this post is not about being a martyr, or about how I’m a martyr. People who know me would never associate that word with my personality!!! The point is that I got involved when I didn’t have to.
It’s not about throwing your weight around or being a sticky-beak. It’s about genuinely wanting things to be different and if there’s an opportunity to make a difference to someone, despite the fact there is no material gain for me, then I think that’s a good thing.
Not everyone wants feedback, but that’s not your problem because you can’t predict whether someone will want feedback until you try. If you’re not sure, you can always ask them: ‘would you mind if I gave you some feedback on that?’ They’ll either say yes or no and you take it from there. If they say no, then you go about your business and work with people who are interested in getting feedback.
You can’t help everyone – work with the ones you can.