"Constructive feedback" - it's not that scary!
I'm a shy person, so I used to have a very hard time receiving feedback in front of many people -- like my face would turn completely red because of embarrassment, and I would have to fake an awkward smile to the person sitting next to me to pretend that I was cool with it. Even now, I'm still struggling with it, but I've gotten more comfortable than I was in September. Here's how:
- No. 1
Pair workshopping in my writing class
In Writing 2-3, I did a lot of pair-workshopping with both my classmates and my TA. At first, I was super nervous when I saw another person reading and marking comments on my paper. It wasn't that I hated comments: I was just really scared of the idea of having someone read my paper in my presence, like I was afraid they would laugh at or judge me. However, I realized they would never do that. They were always very careful with their words when giving feedback while still able to keep the quality of the comments. I think the key point was that my class was a safe place, and no one would negatively judge me from a draft of my paper. Moreover, when my friends and my TA gave me feedback, I realized that they truly wanted me to improve. I've gradually gotten used to receiving feedback directly from my classmates.
- No. 2
Having my scripts read out loud in class
Last term, I took Film 33, and the class was basically workshopping everyday. At the beginning of the term, I would send my assignment to my professor and my classmates and the next day everyone would give me comments in class. I didn't struggle that much receiving those comments, partly because I got used to it in my Writing 2-3 class. However, when we progressed into writing actual scripts, I had to assign characters to my classmates and have them act out my script, which felt like a nightmare. My heart was racing and my eyes were sticking to the table every single time my script was read, especially when someone was reading an awkward dialogue. But my classmates were very thoughtful with reading out each other's scripts. They corrected my occasional typos when they were reading so that my scripts didn't sound messy. And they even added intonation to the dialogue to make the script more dramatic and realisitc. Even when they gave me feedback afterward, they always made their comments cheeky and casual so that I would feel more comfortable. I really appreciated their thoughtfulness and also came to realize that having my scripts read out loud in front of my class was not that bad.
- No. 3
My professor picked my paper to show to the entire class
In the first day of my First-Year Seminar class, my professor said, "In this class, after you all submit your papers, I will randomly pick one of them for the entire class to comment on together." And yes, the first paper to be put on the front-line was mine - and the paper wasn't even anonymous. (How lucky!)
I was basically horrified. I don't really know any other way to describe my feelings then. However, a girl sitting next to me turned to me and smiled, "You got this!." I really appreciated the fact that she was trying to make me feel better, so I took a deep breath and smiled back at her. And when everyone was staring at the screen and reading my paper (my professor didn't even print it out -- he projected it on the screen!), I gave myself a pep talk: "It's gonna be okay. It's just one hour. And right after that it'll all be in the past. And tomorrow you'll look back at it and laugh it off with your friends. It's not a big deal." And I did feel a little better. And my one hour of receiving feedback didn't feel that bad. I guess the key point is that, if you start looking at feedback positively, it isn't that scary.
It took me more than two terms at Dartmouth to figure that out. And even though I'm pretty sure that I'll still freak out the next time I have my essay screened in front of the entire class, I'll treat it as more an improving opportunity than a nightmare. Moreover, I think that Dartmouth students benefit a lot from regularly receiving feedbacks in class. After college - which now I consider a safe place - we will receive a lot more feedbacks from all kinds of people and circumstances, and a lot of them will be much harsher than the feedbacks we receive from our professors and classmates in a writing class. Therefore, I believe that by having students getting used to feedbacks, Dartmouth professors are not only training the students' mentality, but also urging them to perceiving those feedbacks as opportunities to grow.