You Talk Too Much (A Lesson in Tact)

In the classroom, we tend to take over the pace, the goal, and every little piece of the lesson—we planned it and we want it to go exactly as planned.  Again, that’s how we were trained.  My last school took part in a video pilot program, where we voluntarily collected videos of our lessons and used them to open discussions in PLC meetings.  This is the sort of thing I discuss in the preface of the book I’m writing, which takes an incredible amount of trust and courage—and an immense understanding of the concept of constructive criticism, and a willingness to accept it.

We watched a video of a teacher (who was in the meeting at the time) who had taught a well-planned and well-aligned lesson.  Blocks were about 80 minutes long, so to save time, we watched the lesson launch, the middle portion, and then the wrap-up.  When it was over, she asked for feedback; and she wanted honest feedback only, since she recorded her class in order to better her teaching.  I volunteered some constructive criticism, perhaps too quickly: “The short version is, you talk too much.”

She asked what I meant.


I answered, “There’s too much teacher talking.  I only heard a few kids answer low-level questions,” followed by a smile as charming as I could muster.  She wasn’t amused.  (In her defense, there hadn’t been any trust built into our professional environment. More on that later.)

The point I had made was that the students spent 70 minutes listening to their incredibly smart teacher explain things, let them work in groups, and then take over again, several times.  That’s exactly the way we were taught to do this job in teacher school, remember?  The problem is it’s not working.  Even in the low-quality video, you could see student after student disengaging and finding something more interesting to think or talk about.  You can almost hear the voices in their heads: “Well, she’s got this.  She doesn’t need me anymore.”

I could’ve been more tactful, I suppose.  My sense of humor(?) isn’t always appreciated.

Anyway, I defer to this blog article that says it way better than I can:



About Kris Nielsen
Kris L. Nielsen has been a middle grades educator and instructional leader for ten years in New Mexico, Oregon, and North Carolina. He is a graduate of Western Governors University’s Master of Science Education program, with emphasis on child development and instructional technology. Kris is an activist against corporate education reforms and has had his writing featured in several online magazines and blogs, including those of the Washington Post and Diane Ravitch. Kris currently lives in New Mexico with his young son and beautiful wife.

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