Oh, no! My wife read my book

Taking feedback isn’t the same as “using” feedback, writes Doug Lemov in Practice Perfect.

For years, he “struggled” to throw dirty laundry in the laundry basket. His wife would complain. He’d promise to do better, repeating her feedback. “So it bothers you that my clothes are only near the basket.” Nothing changed.

His wife was too busy to read about practicing using feedback, not just taking it, Lemov told the audience at a workshop. 

. . .  she should hand me a pile of my stuff and say, “Let me see you get it into that basket right now.” And then: “Good, I will expect that everyday.”  

Then, it all came crashing down.  He got an e-mail from his wife:

First, I love you very much. And I appreciate all you do to try to make my life easier – emptying the dishwasher this am was incredibly helpful! (techniques 43 and 44) Second, I’d like you to try again at the end of the day to nail the laundry in the basket thing we’ve been working on. I’m giving you the opportunity to show me how much you’ve improved!

POW! Technique 39.

If this doesn’t work, all those people who come to see you are just wasting their time. 🙂

She’d read the book.

“Pretty much every teacher I’ve ever met (or gone out with) has tried to use classroom tricks –the eerily calm ‘teacher voice’ and the incessant praise — to get their way,” writes Alexander Russo.

About Joanne


  1. I can see using that kind of technique with a kid, or possibly with an employee who is doing badly, but I’d feel horrible using it on my husband. He is an adult, for pete’s sake, not a 10yo.

    • Mark Roulo says:

      Thank you!
      This seems reasonable to use on a child. I’d *NEVER* think to say something like this to my wife. Unless I *wanted* to sleep on the couch for a while …

    • Obi-Wandreas says:

      Great point. It shows a fundamental lack of respect, which is poisonous to a marriage.

      • Therefore I don’t get why he was saying his wife SHOULD act that way. She was only taking the advice he had given. I wonder if she avoided it because she didn’t like the idea…

  2. In all fairness to Lemov and his wife, I think there was some good-natured teasing here.

    That said, I have noticed a more general problem (in education and beyond): that many techniques originally intended for elementary school students are extended to all ages. It is as though the public were held back in third grade en masse.

    At some point you have to treat students as responsible, self-aware individuals who can figure out on their own how to apply criticism–and who can understand comments of a subtler nature.

    For instance, in the first few years of studying an instrument, a student will need very precise feedback on technique, in order to develop fluency and good habits. However, after that, the student will benefit from suggestions, hints, and allusions, at least some of the time. In a master class, you don’t see the teacher focusing on how to hold the bow. The emphasis is more on musical interpretation, (though technique may well come into play). Musical interpretation cannot be conveyed precisely; the teacher often makes use of simile and metaphor. (“Think of a waterfall.”)

    There has to be room for kids to grow up intellectually and spiritually. (“Spiritually” is an imperfect word here–I am referring to a kind of dignity.)