Sunday, May 27, 2012

REFLECTIONS: Opening oneself up to EVALUATION is valuable feedback

People are a constant form of instantaneous feedback. They clap for appreciation, boo to show dislike, whistle over questionable decisions, and even downright yell in protest about things they believe in. Yet when it comes time for their voices to be heard on a survey, they will usually avoid any and all that come their way.  
    Knowing this, what did I do? I asked parents of students in my group lesson programs to fill out a survey. Well, it really is more of an evaluation of services performed by myself, for them and their kids, during the six-week tennis sessions I provide through the local recreation center. Does the township require it? No, not at all. But I realize that the only way to know what works, what doesn't, and what needs adjustment, is through honest, constructive feedback. 
So here is the criterion I use for my survey:

  1. How well did the ACTIVITIES of the session align with the DESCRIPTION?
  2. Were the OBJECTIVES of the session(s) accomplished?
  3. How KNOWLEDGEABLE was the instructor in his area of expertise?
  4. Did your child acquire any NEW SKILLS as a result of participation?
  5. To what extent did the instructor present the lessons in an FUN way?
  6. Did you gain any KNOWLEDGE that is relevant to you helping your kids on the court? 
  7. Did the instructor MOTIVATE and instill the love of tennis in the kids?
  8. Was there sufficient time spent on the majority of the activities?
  9. Did the instructor keep you informed of time/date changes and/or provide avenues for you to stay informed by either phone, email, or internet?  
  10. Would you RECOMMEND these lessons to other parents for their kids?

Each of these points are rated with a scoring system of 1-4 with 4 being the highest.Generally speaking, a healthy mix of 3 and 4's are reasonable and the best one can hope for. When someone marks all fours (or all threes for that  matter), and leaves no additional comments in that section, then it raises the red flag in my mind as to whether a parent really took the time to think it through. Feedback should not always indicate perfection, and I would never expect the highest rating in every category. Yes, I admit it. I am human and prone to less-than-perfect results each and every time.
    When I go to Starbucks, I expect the drink I ordered as requested. If it is sub-par, then it is my duty to let someone know. My experience is that they will happily fix the issue. That is called service, and one should expect nothing less. When I teach tennis, my job is three fold: make sure kids are safe, they have fun, and they learn something about tennis. If I've accomplished all three, then I've done a pretty good job. But teaching kids is not quite as easy as mixing a latte. I'm watching the activities based on my initial plan, adjusting to the dynamics of the group, taking heed of the remaining time of the session, and providing additional personal attention where needed. When I take the court, the parents have expectations for their dollar, the kids have needs and wants, and I personally have standards of my own to meet. We never have a bad class, but some classes go better than others. In 70 minutes, I try to provide a mix of fun games, footwork skills, tennis technique, and some overall general tennis knowledge. But in addition, I have worked diligently toward parent engagement. If parents are active participants in their child's activity during my sessions, they may be active with their kids on their own–acting as an extension of my lessons that helps solidify their child's growth and enjoyment of this sport. This has been and always will be my mission.  
    How did I do? Well, pretty good as I've just finished my 6-week Spring session. But there are a few points I want to consider based on parent feedback. The day for me to become satisfied with where I am, with no additional growth needed, will never come. Growth is life, learning is endless, and I will continually strive to provide the best programs possible as we continue our tennis programs throughout this year.

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