Sunday, July 30, 2006

We Help a Charging New Member of the Family To Get Some Perspective on Student Evaluations - Don't Let Them Interrupt Your Life

I am a graduate student who is just about finished my ph.d program and trying desperately to justify to myself that academia is a worthwhile endeavor. Along with all the stress and pain of comps, languages, and writing my dissertation I am also teaching undergraduate courses and attempting to develop a pedagogy that aligns with my intellectual work.

The work I do as a graduate student is hard and difficult and challenges me on a daily basis to make living my chosen life feel worthwhile - but it is teaching that really challenges me to evaluate my chosen life-path. I get good student evaluations - no, forget the false modesty here, I get great evaluations - but all it took was one to crush me. One student who didn't "get me" and my teaching style and I find myself becoming bitter and angry towards all of them. One embittered and disgruntled student evaluation and I find myself leaning towards a of life of uncaring and unengaged pedagogy.

My intellectual work and my "socio-political" beliefs led me to pursure a pedagogy that attempts to break down the barriers between student and teacher, that acknowledges the 'cut and paste' generations attitude toward education as edu-tainment, and to create a classroom where university students no longer felt like merely a number or a dollar sign in the eyes of administration.

And, for 98% of my student it works and it made me feel like I was doing something that actually mattered (unlike writing my dissertation - which feels like an excercise in futility and technicity). But, all it took, was one student to write into with a snarky comment about me to make me question my choice to be a university prof. It's not even that I disagreed with his/her evaluation (I am always open to critique) but that they did it in such an underhanded and oblique manner.

I understand that in a system that makes them merely a 'cog in the machine' their only option is to 'attack' the system through an anonymous system of evaluation. I know that this is there attempt to empower themselves and to fight back against the inhumanizing matrix of the postmodern university which ignores their real concerns and issues. I know this. But, it still hurt (yes, profs are human and have feelings too) and made me question my choice to continue in this life-world.

When I found this site, and read the comments posted there by students and teachers, it made me realize that a) I am not alone and b) it is not the end-all-and-be-all to receive a bad internet evaluation. So, I just wanted to say "thank you" - while many people may see your website as merely a 'revenge' site (getting back at those students who bash us online) I found a site where I could read comments and reactions by people in the same life-world as I am and get some well-needed perspective about the nature of student evaluations.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Reader Implores Us to Go "Old School," And Sends A Sample In About His Own Students

2 chili peppers for looks, 1 okra (think slimy center) for slick talking, 0 for ability or work ethic.
Sign up FRU for your next class. He won’t be in class often because he has a wave to catch. You too can be addressed as “Professor, Dude!” when he stops by your office to discuss the hot chick he just saw in the hallway. He’ll be sure to yell across campus when he sees you (thereby raising your coolness quotient with whoever is with him at the moment) and promise to get that paper in but the end result will be one too many waves that pushed FRU into the sand head first. The forces of nature will cost him what little brain power he had to start the semester.

1 chili pepper, 0 okra, 1 for humor, 0 for ability
KOR will be your best friend if you enjoy word play or bad jokes. She giggles all the time leading you to think you may have a future on Comedy Central. That is, however, the limit of her expressiveness in class or during office hours. No grasp on subject matter. No ability to converse other than in giggles.

1 chili pepper, 0 okra, 2 for ability, ½ for follow through.
Sign up TTO if you are doing an independent study class. He will show up the first class to collect the syllabus, and the last class to turn in the papers. In between he will show up unannounced in your office (with boyfriend/girlfriend (usually 1 chili)) or phone to excuse himself from scheduled office hours. He can provide a running list of his extensive activities none of which have anything to do with his work for your class. Unable to relate school to life.