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.