I knew I had a problem when my fourth grade teacher wrote one comment on my report card. “Rebekah struggles with receiving criticism.” I thought, “How dare she!” I just couldn’t believe that she could say something so negative about me. Of course the irony of my feelings were hitting me at the same time. I knew I was a walking ironic picture when I was angry that someone said I couldn’t take negative feedback well. What did she want to say something negative about? I mean, obviously, I was perfect in every other area. The report card demonstrated that; I receiving high marks in everything else. So if there was nothing negative to say, then how did she even know that I was bad at receiving negative feedback? This was an outrage and clearly not justified.
Fast-forward fifteen years. It’s 0400 (as in, 4 am military style) at Navy boot camp (at least the equivalent for commissioned officers). From all cozy, tucked in my bed, I hear a booming voice shouting with pressing imminence, “Get out of your racks now! You better be in full PT gear and standing in the P-way in less than 30 seconds. Go. Go. Go. Hurry. You’re not going fast enough. I said out of of your racks now.” Of course, we all had all been warned to sleep in our PT (physical training) gear, so it was just a matter of making sure that the hair was in regulations. I had just emerged out of the room still fussing with my hair when I hear “Ensign Leach, what are you doing?” I tried to formulate a response, which I quickly learned was a bad idea. Questions from yelling chiefs are rhetorical questions. “Did you hear me say that I wanted you to come out in half-uniform? Did you hear me say, ‘Come out while you’re still half-ready and finish getting ready?’ No. That’s not what I said. Next time you walk out that door, your uniform is squared away, every last piece, do you understand?” Head nod was all I could manage. That, of course, was the wrong answer, because a loud voice boomed at me, “I said, do you understand?” As loud as my shy self could muster, “Yes, chief.”
That was day one of five weeks of being corrected. By the time it was all over with, I was an emotional wreck. While I’d like to say that I learned to be okay with criticism after that experience, that would the farthest thing from the truth. I learned that I hated chiefs yelling at me. But, as my time went on in the Navy, and I applied the idea of giving and receiving criticism in situations that weren’t so petty as fixing a piece of hair, I actually found myself a very changed person. I used to say that I could take criticism, but before the Navy, the truth was, I couldn’t. I used to get offended if people had anything “constructive” to say, whether it be about my books, my teaching, or anything I was a part of. I used to pretend that I embraced constructive criticism, but when it came my way, I argued my way out of all of it, feeling that whatever was said wasn’t justified.
While I’ll always be soft enough for harsh criticism to have its sting, I would say that being in the Navy has taught me a deeper appreciation and value for feedback. Construction criticism can finally be constructive for me! Rather than resisting, I take it in. I absorb the feedback, and say, “Hm, are they right? (and I really let myself be wrong!) How might I help this change me for the better?”
At my current job, there’s a periodic requirement for “sit-ins.” It’s where someone sits in on your class and observes your teaching. (I teach Reactor Principles at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command.) They fill out a form and write out everything they noticed. They point out if you said the word “um” too often, if you favored hands-up students, if you favored the right side of the room, if you spoke while a student was still writing, gave too long of pauses, talked too fast, too slow, didn’t vary your pitch or pace frequently enough, didn’t use enough questions, didn’t vary the level of the questions, didn’t walk around the classroom enough, walked around too much – making you look nervous, shifted your eyes too much, used too many colors on the board, didn’t use enough color on the chalkboard, the list goes on and on and on…hopefully you get the idea. We have the best instructors in the nation at this schoolhouse, so its no surprise we can nit-pick each other down to the smallest detail. But, like I said, we do have the best instructors. The fact that we can complete feedback forms like none other shows how much we know our craft. The fact that we are actively engaged in receiving feedback ensures we continue to have the top-notch instructors. I give feedback on a regular basis and I receive feedback on a regular basis. Granted, not all feedback is useful. Sometimes people will tell me things that I already know I’m doing, but that doesn’t mean all feedback is bad! Many times I get comments that let me know something that I had no idea that I had missed! Many of those comments are about content. The reviewer will fill in a missing piece. I’ll learn something about a reactor plant that I didn’t know before, and I will go back and tell my class the next day. “Class, you know how I said yesterday that submarines used to be powered by monkeys? Well, I was wrong. Let me tell you how they actually work…” j/k 🙂
About the Feedback Forum
The feedback forum is a place where members can upload videos in order to receive feedback from peers, as well as professional aerial coaches. The purpose of the feedback forum is to get feedback on moves that you are working on that are found in AerialDancing.com’s video library. Please feel free to comment and give feedback on other’s videos – especially if you are a teacher yourself! Giving feedback is a skill just as much as learning how to receive it.
Rules of the Feedback Forum
When you share a video of your move, we ask that you follow the recommended guidelines:
- Never practice alone – someone else must be present in the filming space (can be the camera person although preferably they are actively nearby).
- Have the appropriate mats below you. The higher you go off the ground, the thicker the mat should be.
- We are not riggers and will not be commenting on rigging, but it is important that your rigging be sound for your safety and to set an example to others since this is shared virtual space. All equipment should be hung from points that can bear the loads of aerial work – up to 2,000 pounds or a minimum of 1,000 pounds for partially grounded aerial yoga.
- Include a link in the description of your video to the move on AerialDancing.com that you are working on. This way we know exactly what move you are replicating or working off of.
- Also in the description, let us know if there is a particular spot giving you trouble, or a personal goal that you would specifically like assessed.
How to Upload
Login to your paying member account. Click on “my photos & videos.” You must copy the EMBED CODE from Vimeo or YouTube. Go to the feedback forum link to see your video appear. If you just put a link, it will not work. If your having trouble finding the embed code, send us an e-mail and we’ll help you out.