Written by Shanna Kirkpatrick, Chara Founder
The Discipline of Receiving Feedback
As a kid, my favorite response was “I know.”
“Shanna, it’s your turn to unload the dishwasher.”
“That transition is on count 5-6.”
“The way you spoke to your sister just now was not OK.”
“You’re going to need to stretch behind your knee to get that leap where it needs to be.”
And if I didn’t say it out loud, I was at least always thinking it in my head.
My dance teachers were probably in awe of my confidence! And my parents were probably so proud of the wise Yoda-like daughter the Lord blessed them with. (I hope you can hear my sarcasm!) Life definitely has brought a sense of humor to this phrase, as I am now on the receiving end of many “I know’s” from my own children.
As an adult, I have reflected back and realized that the reason I did…and sometimes still do… respond with “I know” is because the phrase can be an easy, defensive, reflexive response for any type of feedback. It can be an affirmative, complete-sentence answer that shuts down further discussion … but it shouldn’t! I believe we can model and teach our children healthier ways to respond. We can show them what it looks and sounds like to welcome feedback, even crave it!
For those of us who work with children and teens, we call this quality “being coachable.” To quote Next College Student Athlete Sports: “Being coachable means you are open to improvement. You understand there is always room to grow, and you show appreciation for feedback by actively listening and learning from it.” It is a mark of mental strength to become coachable!
One of the best qualities a dancer can develop in themselves is the ability to receive feedback and properly apply it—to develop the attribute of being coachable. The dancer who actively seeks feedback is the one that is successful because they are building a self-awareness around their strengths and growth areas, always thinking about how to lean in to one or the other. As our Chara students grow and find their way as young artists, their eyes open to how much there is still to learn.
To put it another way, there is an old adage that states the following: the novice says “I know that already,” while the master humbly says, “Thank you for the reminder.” As dancers experience the benefits of feedback, they begin to see the wisdom of pursuing it. Dance students are naturally eager to progress, and they want to do so quickly! Yet true mastery requires mistakes, reminders, adjustments, and growth from constructive criticism. Mastery takes time. It is an ongoing life process, not a destination.
At Chara, we believe that the process of training in dance—of working toward mastery year after year—is full of opportunities for growth, progress, and goal achievement that help our dancers become the best version of themselves as young artists and as human beings. And those opportunities? They start with feedback!
Fall is the ideal time to be thinking about how feedback will positively inform your dancer’s journey at Chara. Achievement in our spring milestones, such as receiving a “Double Platinum” from competition judges, recital readiness, graded ballet exams, promotion to the next level of classes, or advancing in company team placement, starts now for the dancer who desires to be the “master” of their progress. Together with our Chara teachers, parents can encourage their dancers to welcome corrections in class and appreciate receiving advice for improvement.
Dancers, if you’re reading this and you want to make your teacher’s heart sing, ask for specific feedback at the end of class! Parents, support your children in connecting with their teachers, and understanding the importance of receiving feedback with humility and an open mind. When teachers give feedback it is because they care. Even when we do not completely agree, we can find value in every piece of feedback. Not only is it a helpful tool now, it will continue to be impactful as your child matures through their education and eventually enters the workforce, marriage, as well as community and church service. What a gift for our dancers to hone this skill of receiving and applying feedback at a young age!
“I know” may be the automatic go-to answer for so many of our children, but in practicing how to appreciate and desire feedback, they can learn from us just how special it is to not know—and instead enjoy the process of their progress.
Book Suggestions for Parents:
“Thanks for the Feedback – The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well”
by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen