TQ: No Grief Debrief

Recently, I have remembered the power of self-reflection.  One of my mottos is “It’s okay to make mistakes.  Just make new ones.”  This means learning from your mistakes.  Any time we do something, we have the opportunity to learn from what went well and what didn’t go well.  As a teacher, I always have a space at the bottom of my lesson plans for “Things to do differently next time.”  If I don’t take the time to reflect and assess, I will not improve my performance as quickly.

A 12 year-old boy that I began tutoring has been struggling in math.  After working with him for several weeks, I had come up with a list of behaviors and attitude problems that prevented his ability to perform well.  He was easily distracted and couldn’t sit still.  He would lose assignments or forget to turn them in.  Upon seeing numbers in a problem, he would begin multiplying or adding them arbitrarily before figuring out what the problem was even asking for.  He wouldn’t show work unless I reminded him.  And nothing was ever his fault.  If he failed a test because he forgot his calculator at home, it was his mom’s fault because she didn’t bring it to school for him.  If his assignment wasn’t in his planner, it was his teacher’s fault for not writing it in his planner.

Not one of these problems was rooted in his math ability, and all of them had consequences in every subject.  Not only that, these attitudes would negatively shape the type of person he would become as an adult.  I tried to address these issues first by reminding him and even scolding him.  Nothing worked.  I decided I needed a way for him to see his trouble areas in a safe and private way.  I needed him to decide that it was HIS decision to change his habits.  I needed to grow his critical thinking and self-assessment abilities.

It can be difficult for a 12 year old to demonstrate self-assessment.  It is right around this time when kids begin developing their formal operational thinking and problem solving skills.  I decided to create a self-assessment for him to score himself on each day.  I took the list of his behaviors I hoped to change, reworded them as the positive behaviors I wanted him to aim for, and had him score himself 1-10 on each.  My instructions when I gave it to him were, “This is just for you to fill out and think about.  You don’t have to show this to me or your mom, but you do have to fill it out each day.”  When I introduced it, he seemed repulsed by the idea, but after actually filling it out and seeing that I wasn’t going to lecture him, he saw it was painless and didn’t mind.  Almost immediately, I have seen a large improvement in his focus, determination, and organization simply because he knows that he has to score himself (even though that score will never be seen by anyone).  I did address once about making sure he scores himself realistically and scored myself to demonstrate that.  He even uses the last space on the self-assessment to choose one or two goals to focus on for our next session.

As he grows in his ability, I would hope he can learn to accept criticism and critique from others and grow his abilities from them.  But for now, I have found a way to have him give himself criticism and critique.

Technique: No Grief Debrief


  1. After every lesson (or day) review how things did or did not go well.  What would you do differently next time?  Write this down!
  2. No Grief Debriefs work best with more people.  Discuss with another teacher how things have been going, what you’ve been learning and difficulties you are having.  They may have some great insight to help you.  If not, you may be offering them great insight to help you.
  3. Arrange for other professionals to observe your classroom on a regular basis (approx. monthly).  They will often see things you are unaware of.  Remember that you are seeking their critique, so don’t get upset if they tell you something you don’t want to hear.  Learn from it.
  4. Observe other teachers teaching their classes and make a list of good and bad things you see.  Offer to share these with the teacher if they are interested.  If not, keep them to yourself to improve your teaching.
  5. Encourage your students to use a self-assessment on a regular basis.
  6. As with anything, model good behavior for your students and others.  If they see you assessing your own behavior, they will be more likely to see the benefits of doing it themselves.

Note: Please feel free to use and modify the self-assessment I have provided to suit your own needs.  Let me know in the comments if there is anything you might change or insight you may have.  Thanks.


Posted on April 9, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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