I did an incredibly brave (or incredibly stupid) thing this week. I asked my students (tired teenagers) to critique my class and themselves. For the most part, they were kind but honest about the class. That was my request. I truly wanted to know which assignments were meaningful to them and which were not. I felt that it was important to hear how my students felt they had improved as writers and what they thought could have helped them more. They gave some interesting feedback, and if I get to teach the class again, I feel that much of it will be helpful. There were a few critiques though that took me by surprise.
Perhaps the most unexpected critique was from one of the top students in my class. I recognized her advanced level early on, and I gave her opportunity to step out and work more independently. She seemed pleased and really did some great writing. I was consistently positive with her, but as I found out, that didn't seem to be enough. In her assessment, she expressed how my red marks of correction (grammar, spelling, sentence structure) were offensive. She felt that she should not have been corrected at all. On the other hand, she did not mind criticizing my assignments and teaching style.
A few other students took the opportunity to be sarcastic and biting. Their remarks about my inadequacy as a teacher and their superiority as a student were difficult to read. Even though these critiques were from the same students that did not turn in work completed or on time, their words made an uncomfortable impact.
Interestingly enough, criticism did not just come from my students these past few weeks. Though there has probably been more positive than negative, it just seems that it is my time to be humbled. Not necessarily a bad thing mind you, but still tough to swallow. I have found myself spending lots of time with God, asking him to clean my soul and soften my heart.
It is never easy to hear criticism, particularly when it comes in an ugly way, but I have learned to try to see beyond the messenger. Someone once shared with me the words of a wise woman. She said that when someone criticizes you, you should first examine the message for any truth. If there is any truth, you should make the necessary corrections. If not, then you should discard what was said.
Several years ago, I read the book, "The Five Love languages" by Gary Chapman. It was not difficult for me to figure out that my love language is "Words of Affirmation." When people speak positive words to me, I feel loved. On the contrary, when I am criticized, or spoken to negatively, it causes me pain. Obviously, I am not going to go through life hearing only compliments and, especially as an artist and an author, I am bound to receive criticism. Chapman's book helped me to learn how to process that information.
Sometimes, I am a lot like my first student. I only want to hear the praise and never the correction. This sounds like it would be really nice, but if I never receive correction, I will never change or grow. Staying stagnate, to me, sounds worse than the temporary discomfort of hearing that I could do better.
Listen to advice and accept correction, and in the end you will be wise.
I hope that I can always be open to constructive criticism, and I hope that I can be graceful enough to those who choose to deliver it in a non-constructive way. I love to learn, I desire to grow, I long for wisdom! Even when it comes from teenagers.
Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.