Friday, October 12, 2007

Reasonable. We're Always Knocked Out When Someone Just Walks In And Is Reasonable. The "Screw 'Em" Post.

I think it's normal to care if your students like and respect you. Personally, I prefer respect. But, I know that you can't please everyone all the time - especially the spoiled brats who seem to be the most vociferous. Negative comments do hurt. Students do not understand the time and effort we put into our courses. They think we just show up at class time, yammer at them for an hour, and then disappear back into the professor mist from whence we sprang. Because most of them spend so little time preparing for class themselves, they think we go in with no preparation also. They are egocentric and lack empathy. But, that is the nature of the late adolescent beast. For that reason I consider student comments in context.

What do you know about the student who's making the comment? If it's a D to C student who achieved that distinction by giving you lazy work (or no work at all), disregard whatever they say completely. They blame you for not gifting them with grades they haven't earned. They will not be happy with you even if you show up at their dorm and do all their laundry for them.

You should also disregard any student comments on evaluations that complain that the class is "too hard." That comment is meaningless, unless no other students the class were able to earn Bs and As. The way I see it, if some students were able to make higher grades, then higher grades were possible and the class was not "too hard." It's the students who did not make As and Bs who were doing something wrong then; not me.

Comments that you are "boring" should also be taken with a grain of salt. You are there to teach, not entertain. Are you boring, or is the subject boring? Let's face it: some of the stuff we teach is boring. I have taught research methods several times, and short of tap dancing through the lessons, I can think of no way to make that more interesting. Sometimes, the material is what it is. And quite often, the stuff we find fascinating, many students will find duller than watching paint dry. There is nothing you can do about that. Don't concentrate on the snoozer in the back row. Concentrate on the student in the front row who is awake and attentive. He obviously finds what you have to say less boring.

Finally, face the fact that your class may indeed be "a waste of time" for some students. How many classes did you take as a student that have proved to be little more than filler in your schedule? I took that Music Appreciation class because I had to take something in that area to fulfill my requirements, and that seemed the least painful. But, I barely remember it now and it has brought no enrichment to my life. However, it was not the professor's fault that I did not find it useful to my life or my major. Those were the University requirements. I think most students recognize that it is not our fault that they have to take classes unrelated to their majors. I'm sure few hold it against us personally. And the ones that do? Screw 'em.