Writing a Self-Review with Stephan Classen

I started getting more involved in the Judge Program in the Spring of 2011, after a long hiatus from judging.  My town was having some issues running events, and I was the only L1+ in a 200 mile radius so, after getting more involved, I desired to get better at judging.  One of the major steps I took was regularly writing self-reviews.

When I first started judging back in 2005, judges were required to write a self-analysis annually to maintain their L1.  In these reviews, I wrote my strengths and weaknesses as a judge, and kept up with them throughout the years.  In 2012, when I passed my Level 2 exam, I felt the need to continue writing short self-reviews of my progress.  Here’s why:

What a self-review can do
My self-review was my timeline.  I come from a location where I could only get to a GP or SCG Open every few months, and while I gave and received feedback at those events, I would rarely get a review written of me.  Additionally, these reviews seemed to gloss over my performance – both the highlights and the low points.  This prompted me to take my notebook to events and I would take notes on every ruling I made, good or bad; things I did poorly; things I did well; and things I felt I could have handled better.  Here’s an example of one of my self-reviews:

January 2013: GP Atlantic City
Strengths: I felt this weekend, my first Grand Prix, went very well. I was the staff photographer, and got almost all the judge photos taken, including an awesome staff photo!

I worked hard on the deck check team, and made new friends with several other judges, both on my team and on the floor. I learned a lot about sleeves cut in different ways (even if they’re new), and different methods about sorting decks and looking for patterns that could imply cheating.

I was always looking for ways to help, even if it was just pushing in chairs and cleaning up discarded cards and trash. I tried to help players with concerns as much as possible, and keep floor coverage spread out for both me and other judges when I could, since there were times with low coverage.
Areas for Improvement: At first in the event, I was a bit hesitant and over-cautious on giving rulings. I need to be more firm and confident about them. We’re here to help players play fairly, not just issue penalties and be cops.

I definitely need to study up on out of order sequencing, as in one case, if I had been the first responder on a ruling instead of a shadow judge, I may have made the wrong call.

I also need to speed up deck checks a bit, find out ways to sort cards faster to keep under the 7 minutes of checking.
Comments: This is a 2013 self-review. All in all, a great GP Atlantic City, and I learned so much, both for rules knowledge and procedure, and I’ve found new areas for my own improvement as a judge to take back to my own events.

What was the point?
I can look back at this review and see what I was thinking at the time.  I could learn from review to review what I was focusing on, what rules sections were stronger or weaker for me, and if I felt I was improving.  I could even use it as a little milestone in my judging career: This was my first GP, and the first time I got to meet so many other judges. I criticized my own confidence in rulings, something I hadn’t been given feedback on.

You may notice that I put in some doubts and musings about my own skills, even in a ruling I was only shadowing.  I learned from someone else’s success and made note of my own inexperience at that time.  Being able to look back at what rules areas troubled me has aided me when finding further sections to study, and and has also helped me choose sections as topics to use when I train other judges.  Looking back now I could have been more specific in examples, but writing what I felt needed to be remembered would remind me of my errors and troubles of the past.  I quickly found I had some thoughts to write down after every event.

Why after every large event?
I wrote a self-review after every major event I judged at from Fall 2012 to Spring 2014. While this didn’t count towards my review numbers for advancement, it did give me perspective on my own judging career.  It gave me more ideas for reviews of other judges, even at FNM and Prereleases.  My thought process was one of self-reflection and reminders – looking back at the previous self-review before going to the next event helped remind me of what went well or poorly, and how to improve on it at the next event.

Long Term Benefits
What long term benefits can self-reviews provide you?  Will you remember that interesting ruling that came up at an event six months later? How about a year later?  These reviews are a record of interesting rulings and situations that I can look back on years later. Writing seven self-reviews in approximately two years also made me feel prepared when it came time to figure out my strengths and weaknesses as a judge for my L3 Panel Self Review.  I had seven points in time where I could look back and see what I had done well and what could have been done much better.

We’re all trying to help others improve with reviews, so why don’t we help ourselves improve as well?  I would highly encourage any judge to regularly self-review – even if it’s just a short summary of how you felt about your skills as a judge.  This could seriously help you in your judging in the future, as well as your review writing!

One thought on “Writing a Self-Review with Stephan Classen

  1. Enjoyed the read. Having met you at GP Vegas 2015 and been working on becoming an L2 it was good to see what someone else’s thought process was about a large event and what to take away from it. A self review is something I tend to muddle through after an event I help with as a judge or a TO, but to actually make not of it is a great idea. Thanks very much.

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