I am midway through my third year teaching solo and it never ceases to amaze me what a visceral experience it is to read student evaluations. My composite scores are great–a lot of ’em love me, a lot of ’em like me, one or two hate my guts. The numbers are easy to take, but it is the open-ended comments that leave my stomach churning.
For example, for one student, I am the best teacher at ASU. For another, apparently I run an after-school program. For one person, I am approachable, kind and provoke creative thought. For someone else, I’m a rotten b***h who f***ing grades the f***ing tests too hard. I’m both too easy and too strict. I maintain a “really fun, open environment” but don’t prepare students well enough for tests (i.e., I don’t tell them exactly what will be on the test and run through it the day before). Perhaps the most potentially crushing comment of all–someone said they didn’t learn a thing about communication and apparently it was my fault.
After precisely three minutes of soul-searching–am I bad teacher? How do I make sense of these conflicting comments? How is it that these students who “didn’t learn” anything or didn’t feel prepared “enough” earn perfectly respectable Bs?–I’ve decided to move along.
Sure, maybe some people don’t connect with my teaching style. I run a tight ship where I expect that students (and their homework) should show up on time. I grade rigorously because I want As to mean “excellent” and not “nice try.” I concentrate on class periods that work through and practice concepts of the course rather than spitting out information at students. In doing that, I presume students can read.
While I admit, I have a lot to work on… I would like to practice facilitating more meaningful discussion. I plan to get student work back earlier than expected. I will make a point to connect the fun activities to chapter material so the linkage between theory and practice is crystal clear.
But I will not compromise on quality, dammit. For students obsessed with getting into “the real world,” I will hold them accountable to “real world” standards and deadlines. Do a sub-standard job? Get a sub-standard grade. I will also do my best not to internalize (too much) their feedback but rather, learn where I can and not let the criticism constrain me. Finally, I will start this new semester with excitement and optimism. (Can’t say my evaluations will go up if I act like Eeyore now will they??)