Wednesday, May 14, 2008

feeling bad

Sorry folks.

I am just not feeling okay. Roland helped me sort through student evaluations that I have been avoiding reading.

A minority of students talk about the use of the web: some hate it and a few more love it.
Some of the students talk about the guest speaker we had: four thought she was the best experience of the whole class; three thought she was totally off topic and irrelevant and had no idea why I invited her.
A chunk of students commented that we got off topic too much. Some blamed other students for not being prepared; some blamed me. I think it was my fault, in part, and I can deal with that. I need to work on it.
Some students were pleased that I returned material so promptly. Others were annoyed that they never seemed to get feedback. (I was not consistent between classes. I confess. Something else I need to work on.)

The single most common comment was that I was fantastic in that I was always willing and ready to help student outside of class and that I really cared about their progress.
The next most common comment was that I was in some general way wonderful.

And about three students hated my guts with a fiery passion, thought that I should quit my job and get one walking dogs while other people worked, that my voice sounded like a little girl talking to a puppy on Christmas (not sure exactly what that means), and that if class had lasted any longer he/she would have had to shoot him/herself in the head.

Now why is it that those three students are defining my mood? Why can't my mood be equally affected by the positive and the negative comments? Even if they affect me more, say twice as much shouldn't that mean that 26 "she's wonderful!" comments minus three "she sucks!" comments make me feel about the same as getting 20 "wonderful?"

But it doesn't work that way.

I feel like crap.

I want to run away.

I don't want to do this job anymore.

I want to leave the school, do foster care and make quilts.

I don't want to teach today.

I want to be tougher so these things don't bother me.

I want to be better so that students don't say these things about me.

Mostly though I just want to go home and crawl into bed and never get back out again.


  1. At least you read the evaluations. I've had at least one professor roll her eyes and tell the class that she doesn't read or care about them. I think she's tenured.

  2. PS- I'm sure you're awesome. Students who write those types of comments (like the last three) pride themselves in their creativity and use just about every class's eval to exercise it.

  3. And I WANT to go beat those three dum-dums up! Grr. Spoiled brats.

  4. Anonymous8:44 AM

    Jo: and I wonder if maybe some of those 26 students -- some of them who loved Yondalla as a teacher -- might also feel the same way about wanting to bop the three dum-dums, if they knew what those three wrote?

  5. I guess they (evaluations) are there for a help the teacher know what they can improve on or what does or doesn't work anymore, but I remember back in college how some students would use them to air out their grievances (instead of addressing them with the it's a passive-aggressive way of doing it since they don't have to do it in person) or to let loose their pent up anger (over getting that C they don't think they derserved despite the fact that their paper was riddled with errors) because now "I can get back at him/her."

    In other words...a lot of times it is not even about making a constructive change w/ the teacher/class or offering suggestions but more about the particular student.

    I once sat outside a professor's office while two students tried to get him to change their B to an A and I was sick to my stomach with their whining and pleading (they were part of my table group and I had read their papers and they were lucky to have gotten the B)- guess what they did at the end of the year? Yepp...scathing review of the poor guy AND tried to recruit others to do the same (I used humor to turn it on them...they paid me back the following semester by leaving me w/ the bulk of a project!LOL) -

    I'm not saying don't work on what you realize you need to change but also be careful of taking to heart the ones that have too much emotion or make it personal (like the voice thing) instead of offering constructive criticism because then it really is about them and not you.

    I saw/hear some do things for reasons that would just boggle the mind. Because they didn't like the old fashion bow-tie one wore or the quizzes another gave or because they were upset over some imagined or perceived grievance (and even these were stupid because not doing your homework and therefore not being prepared is not fodder for a grievance).

    Use what you can, change what you can and burn the rest!LOL


  6. Oh what Angela (Eos) said!!! I know how hard it is to NOT take these things to heart but please don't let it impact your feelings about your value as a teacher. If it's any comfort, I get lousy, mean-spirited criticism sometimes from editors and the like and it always socks me in the gut, too, but you have to hang your hat on the positives, especially when the bad guys are so out-numbered.

  7. If it's any consolation, I am a professor too and the same thing always happens to me when I read them. 2-3 negatives in a crowd of 40-50 positives still spoil the feeling. I've started reading the evals about six months after I get them, when I am distanced from all the effort I put in to getting the students through the course.

    They are mostly 18-24 year olds; the people who do poison pen evals are angry about something and feel that this is their only recourse; if they are writing these things they already believe you are past all help anyway. So the only thing you can do is realize the same--these students wouldn't have been happy no matter what you did.

  8. I have a friend (a REALLY popular teacher) who refuses to read her evaluations because she knows that the few bad ones will far outweigh the good in her mind. They really are such a silly way of measuring teaching quality. There is always that danger that the few bads will be what sticks in your head, and then you'll change the way you teach even though you are overwhelmingly beloved (which it appears that you are!)

    My favorite comment I've received over the years: "Dr. X is nice and funny, but she needs a fashion consultant". Ummm, thank you, that's very useful. . .

  9. ((Hugs))

    I used to work in a computer lab for our local community college. I know how it feels to get rave reviews from most of your students, but have one or two complainers.

    It's hard to focus on the positive feedback and not dwell on the negative ones.

    I'm sorry.

    I want to point out, though, that after having met you in person and talking to you on the phone, I know that the positive evaluations are accurate. Even though I've never sat in on one of your classes, there is no question in my mind that you are an awesome teacher. But even more than that, you are a treasured friend.

  10. the reason there is the saying "don't let the bastards get you down" is cause there are bastards who simply like to take advantage of situations like this to spread a little of the crap that is their lives onto other people.
    So dear,
    don't let the bastards get you down, they are not worth it.
    hope the bad feelings pass quickly.

    and why does it get to us, because most of the time we are trying so hard....


  11. I'm sorry about the bad eggs. I would react the same. Those evals leave you wide open to people who will misuse the opportunity. And even though you know intellectually that the negativity is misdirected and unconstructive, it's nearly impossible to make completely like a duck because you are a pro and you give it your all. How can you not recoil at the rejection? I wish I had an antidote for the poison.

    I have one person in my life who is a real Greek Chorus of Pain. She has issues (to put it mildly) and she isn't credible. But the toxic fumes still get to me if I don't limit my exposure and fight like h*!! to stay grounded.

    I get the picture from your blog that you must be a wonderful professor. I recognize the gift from the times I have been blessed to be taught by it myself. I learn from you just from reading here ... I was telling my DH the other day that reading here is like watching the iron chef round of parenting. It's great to be allowed to follow someone with such good, steady instincts. Some people have that knack for being able to communicate well and be a blessing to others. Some professors fit that bill, as do some bloggers. You must qualify as both, I'd bet my hat on it.

    I may not beat those kids up (why wast me strength?), but I agree the sentiment. And the reminder the badness isn't about you ... you know which comments have traction; the rest is just sewage. But confess I do start to feel my left hook twitch when I see that it makes you (naturally) discouraged enough to have feeling about walking away. You do good work, so your first clue that the comments are the dark side trying to get to you is that it makes you want to give up on something worthwhile, something that is such a big part of your life.

    Take care. Feel better.


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  13. Laughing at my mere mortal, wordy self ... scratch all those lines that I just wrote. When I clicked "publish" and the page refreshed, I saw Gawdess' comment and what can I say? Sign me up for seconds of "Don't let the bastards get you down." Touche.


  14. That sucks. Those evals are almost always from sour grapes students who didn't get the grade they wanted and blame your teaching rather than their poor efforts.

    I always tell my students that I know I'm not the best teacher in the world, and I know I'm not the best teacher in the world, so when I read my evals if they say either nothing but positive things or nothing but negative things I will just laugh.

    It still hurts when I get really negative feedback, though, not necessarily because I believe it, but because I can't help but feel (even though I know it's not true) that if someone is so angry it means that I failed to connect with them in some way, not that they failed to do what they needed to do to succeed or enjoy my class.

  15. The reason it gets you down is because you actually care about your classes. I've had a few professors who taught class for themselves. Luckily most were like you, who were passionate about what they taught and how they taught it.

    I've always hated personal attacks on evals, they don't do anything but show the lack of maturity of the writer. ps Can I audit your class. LOL


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