Inviting Constructive Criticism

Mentoring TeachersOne of the most important things I’ve learned over the years as a Sunday school teacher is the necessity of being teachable so that I might become a better teacher. No matter how many years you’ve taught or how experienced you are with a certain age group or curriculum, there is always room for growth. One of the most helpful tools for me personally is the critique of other teachers and small group leaders. But this usually won’t happen unless you first ask others to observe you teach and offer you constructive criticism afterward.

Here is an example of how you can go about doing this:

  • A few days before you are scheduled to teach, ask another teacher or a small group leader to observe you. Make sure they understand that you want them to give feedback and helpful criticism of the lesson. Extending this kind of invitation will make it much more likely that he or she will feel the freedom to be honest with you.
  • If the observer does not already have a copy of the lesson to be taught, provide a copy to follow along as you teach.
  • Make a list of specific questions and observations you would like critiqued. Provide the list with ample room for the observer to write in his or her responses. The list might include some of the following:
    • Did I seem well-prepared and organized?
    • Did my heart seem to resonate with the truths being taught? Did I give evidence that I am teaching out of a love for Jesus and a desire for the students to love Him, too?
    • Did I follow the lesson, and clearly and effectively communicate the main points?
    • Did I use visuals and illustrations in a manner that was helpful?
    • Did I make clear connections between the illustrations and biblical truth?
    • Was the authority and text of the Bible emphasized in my teaching?
    • (If teaching readers) Did I encourage the students to use their Bibles? Did my expectations seem too much, too little, or just about right for this age group? (For example, did I require them to look up too many texts or read difficult portions, etc.?)
    • Did I use appropriate language, tone, gestures, energy, etc. as I presented the lesson?
    • Was I able to keep the students’ attention? If not, what seemed to be at issue?
    • Did I deal with any distractions in an appropriate and efficient manner?
    • Did I involve students in the learning process in a manner that was helpful and did not lead to silliness or protracted conversation, activity, etc.?
    • Did I wisely handle student responses, especially incorrect answers?
    • Did I state anything that was confusing, misspoken, or probably misunderstood by the students? If so, was it of such a nature that it should be addressed in a future lesson?
    • Can you state one or two things that would have made my teaching more effective in this lesson?
  • After the lesson, schedule a time to sit down and review the responses. Maintain an open and humble attitude. Even if you don’t agree with every critique, be willing to listen and glean from any insights offered. Remember: How you think you came across in the lesson is not always how you did come across.
  • Thank the observer for his or her willingness to do this. It can feel very uncomfortable to critique someone.
  • As you prepare for teaching your next lesson, think of ways in which you can use the critique to implement any necessary changes that will improve your teaching.

If your church hasn’t already done so, you might want to consider a more formal teacher mentoring program that includes an observation and review process. For more information in how to structure a mentoring program, listen to the seminar “Mentoring Teachers” here, and see the accompanying handout available here.

(Image courtesy of winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Written by Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson is a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher and author. She has taught Sunday School for over 20 years and writes God-centered curriculum for Children Desiring God.

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