Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Looking for Ideas, a Professor of Math Comes to Us on Hands and Knees Aching to be Schooled in Interpersonal Yada Yada

I admit that I'm a lousy communicator in class. I get a little worked up. I wear sloppy clothes that are 15 years out of date. I have a bowl haircut straight out of my grade 3 photo. I don't understand the current students and their ways, their manner, their language, their work ethic, yada yada.

But I love Math and I do my best to teach it well. And every semester I get below average scores in my student evaluations, and in the narrative sections I read things like these (which arrived yesterday from our Dean's office): "Prof {X} needs a public speaking course." "Prof. {X} thinks he's being funny, but we're groaning because he's not." "He needs to lighten up. Math is not all we care about." "He wants mathletes, and I just want my B."

And there are others. I dress poorly, I speak poorly, yada yada.

I've tried to do a better job. I even meet with my students after class and in my office to help them work out their processes, solutions, and yada yada. But then I get an evaluation like this: "It's so weird in his office because there's chalk dust everywhere."

I envy those professors who get along so well with their students. I try to be "one of the fellas" and it comes out wrong. I believe I know what I need to know to be a fantastic professor, but I don't seem to be able to connect with students. What should I do? Read Rolling Stone? Get my clothes somewhere hip?