This is a question I sometimes hear from a participant after a (practice teaching) lesson on an intensive training course. It is usually asked privately, when everyone else left the room. It is (almost always?) asked right before the ‘official’ feedback session on this lesson, and most of the times, even before a participant sits down to write down his/her own initial thoughts and feelings about the lesson.
I don’t like this question. First of all, this often only implies one answer (‘Yes, the lesson was great!’ or something like this). The teacher asking this question does not want to hear something like this ‘Well, the lesson today was better than last week, but you still need to work on …. ‘(insert an idea/technique/skill). Second, the participant asking this question might be seeking for confirmation/validation/justification before the coming feedback session. I have heard group discussions later during a feedback session when a person says ‘But the trainer liked my lesson anyway!’, or similar things. Third, the teacher asking this question might be simply refusing to reflect and would like to use the trainer’s (positive!) comment as the only lens of analysis. Also, this teacher asking the question is often a very experienced teacher. Finally, the question is oftentimes asked as a beginning of a conversation in an attempt to (a) elicit my feedback before the feedback session and (b) defend/explain/justify the tasks/materials, etc. used during the lesson.
So what do I actually answer? I nod, smile, look at the teacher’s eyes, say that s/he had worked hard on planning and teaching this lesson, and that the students seemed to be learning and enjoying the class (if this is true, of course) I then say something about the break/lunch/printing my written notes, etc. — anything that might help me avoid the detailed conversation about the lesson in question. Yes, trying to be positive, tactful, even polite – but… not to answer.
Now, re-reading the paragraph above, I am wondering if my analysis has all been only negative. What other possible reasons for asking this question might exist? Perhaps the teacher has just tried out something very new in his/her class, something s/he has never thought about doing before (examples from my recent course: a reading lesson using a tea box as authentic text, a jig-saw reading lesson, a writing lesson with beginner-level students, etc.) It is possible that the lesson had unusual number of students (much more than usual, with several new-comers, or much fewer than usual, with many students leaving towards the end of a lesson) It is possible that a teacher had a bad headache, or a sick kid at home, or…. anything else in life that might need an extra smile and a small praise from another human-being (not a trainer, in this case)
How do I know which situation is which? Is there a ‘rule’ I can apply, even to myself? What do/would you answer if you hear a question like that after a lesson you observe?
Finally, did you like this post?