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Dealing With Undue Criticism

Observation and evaluation are part of the life of a teacher. It's something we accept and sometimes even welcome as an opportunity to get better. No matter how criticism is presented, it's never easy. You can use the strategies below to navigate undue criticism and grow from it.

Stick to the Facts

No situation in history was ever made better by someone becoming frustrated, defensive, or angry. When we feel questioned, these emotions are natural responses, especially if they seem out of place, inaccurate, or poorly delivered. 

When discussing the criticism given, do your best to remain calm and stick to the facts. The facts are harder to argue with and therefore provide a more compelling case. You'll want to be careful not to get too emotional while sharing the facts, as that can come off as defensive. As hard as it may be, you'll want to let the other person share their entire thought or perspective. Be sure not to cut them off or provide a rebuttal too quickly. 

It's also okay to ask to revisit the conversation. You won't do your best thinking on your feet, and you'll be much better prepared to approach the situation calmly and rationally if you can take a deep breath and think about what you would like to say.

Take an Honest Look

Put your pride aside, and try to understand what that person may have observed, heard, or thought to offer the criticism they have. We are professionals, but we are also human. There will always be areas in which we need to improve. 

While the criticism as a whole may feel undue or inaccurate, some pieces may ring true. Ask yourself, are there simple changes or tweaks that will enhance your classroom environment and the students' learning experience? If so, address them. Reap the benefits of self-reflection and constructive criticism and use them to grow your practice and overall impact.

Seek Trusted Advice

Find someone you trust and share what you're experiencing with them. Don't look for the teacher in the room next door who also hates the parent or administrator who gave you the feedback to commiserate together. Rather, seek out your mentor, a close friend, or a level-headed colleague you trust, and share the situation. Hear from their perspective what may be going on. 

Are you misinterpreting the criticism? Does the person who delivered it have a lot going on outside of work? Is there some validity to it that may be worth taking a second look at? This last one is a tough question, which is why this conversation must occur with someone you trust to be honest with you.

Don't Drown in the Negative

Criticism (undue or completely accurate) is part of the job. Remember, it doesn't necessarily equate to you failing. Don't allow yourself to drown in negative thoughts and second guess all of the good things you are doing.

That drawer in your desk where you keep letters from past students, special gifts, and memories about things that have gone right in your teaching career isn't filled idly. Now's a good time to open it and utilize that positive energy to inspire you to do better.

Move Forward

Every piece of criticism you receive is not accurate. Every student, parent, and administrator will have a different perspective on what you are doing within your classroom or school, along with what you could be doing better. People without all of the facts will make judgments. Even if you have honestly made intelligent decisions to do what is in your student's best interests, you may still receive criticism you feel is off-base. 

If you have attempted each of the strategies above, then rest easy knowing that you are doing right by your students, and move past this criticism. You will truly never be able to make everyone happy.


Most educational professionals are in this field because they care about impacting the lives of young people and sharing their knowledge. Inevitably, criticism can feel like a personal attack because of the deep devotion that goes into lesson planning, classroom management, and building relationships with students.

It's important that you use the strategies above to ensure you take constructive criticism to heart, leaving the rest behind. Keep in mind that no one is perfect, do the best you can with the feedback you're given.

Written by Jacqueline Sugrue
Education World Contributor
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