Friday, February 17, 2012

Got my evaluations

The other day, as I was heading out, I stopped off at the office to let the secretary know that a student left their thumbdrive in the computer lab, if they were looking for it. (You have to be careful about these things: I've also heard of people loading virus-ware and stuff like keystroke loggers on thumbdrives, and then scattering them around hoping that people will go "ooh! Free thumbdrive!" and infect their computers. That COULD be an urban legend, but I'm not desperate enough for extra file-storage space to assume that it is).

She said, "I have something for you" and handed my my evaluations from last semester. I admit to muttering, "I don't really WANT those..." but took them back up to my office.

I always read these quickly, and with my eyes half-closed, because I've gotten some doozies of comments in the past from disgruntled students. (A friend of my parents - a retired prof from Great Britain - maintains that evaluation comments should NOT be anonymous. I can see the justification for having them anonymous - students need to feel free to give constructive criticism without fear of retaliation if they wind up having that prof again for a class - but the flip side of the freedom of anonymity is that sometimes people feel free to write very hurtful or untrue things (I have heard of students "trying" to get profs in trouble by making accusations in evaluation comments that they wouldn't make face-to-face with the Dean, for example).

Anyway. There were more positive than negative comments. (That's what I look at - the numbers I get into later on, when I need them for Faculty Development plans). And this time there weren't any really terrible negative comments that made me cringe. Most of the "negative" comments centered on the workload - too much material, too many labs (? we only have one a week), too much math in ecology.

(And I have to laugh at that one - I have LESS math in my ecology than some profs do. At some universities, statistics is a prerequisite for ecology because the students are required to statistically analyze the data they collect. And the lab write-ups are way more write-up-i-er than the ones I require.)

One thing I'm slowly learning is that you can't please everybody. And that it's probably preferable to be the sort of teacher where the people who go on to grad school or more advanced work in their field come back and thank you for the preparation you gave them, than to make the people who just want to have fun in college happy. (I had a few teachers/profs I didn't much like at first - my high school chem teacher comes to mind - but by the end of the semester or the year I respected them a lot (and came to like them - because I respected them) because I realized how much I was learning from them. Ideally, I'd like to be both respected and liked - and I think some of my students do both respect and like me - but if I can only have one, I'll go for "respected.")

Also, there is the thing that you don't love everything that's good for you (Ironically, this is a comment someone made on ITFF). That's true. While I love learning and enjoyed the vast majority of my classes (even the stuff outside my major, even the "hard" stuff in my major), not everyone is geeked out on learning like I am, and there are times when stuff is just plain hard work and you just kind of have to power through it to get what you want (the knowledge or the skill). I think maybe one of the hallmarks of maturity is realizing that not everything has to be "fun" to be worthwhile, and maybe the complaining students haven't quite internalized it yet. I mean, stuff can be INTERESTING and CHALLENGING but not necessarily FUN. (Although arguably, having something that's a challenge and being able to meet that challenge is satisfying in a way that goes beyond mere "fun.")

1 comment:

Lynn said...

Some negative comments (like the "too much work" ones) will probably be considered positive by others.