Jan. 14th, 2017

eilonwy2017: (Job sucks)
(Note: I copied/pasted some of this from writing it elsewhere, and now whatever I do I cannot make the middle paragraphs have spaces between them or they have too much space. Apologies for the awkward reading situation.)

Student evaluations always make me nervous. I genuinely want feedback so that I can continually improve my classes, but on the other hand, no one likes to be told what they suck at. Then, too, as useful as evals can be, it's been proven that women consistently do poorer on evaluations than men (because of gender bias) and that students giving good feedback on a course does not correlate with their actually having learned from the course, which, frankly, is more important than whether they had 'fun'.

I've been, honestly, dreading my feedback from the fall semester because ... well, after November 9th I kind of checked out. I don't remember much between November 9th and Thanksgiving. (I know I drove to MD to get Mia and Jessie. And that [livejournal.com profile] pyrite came to my house the weekend after so that I wasn't alone. I only vaguely recall Thanksgiving. Things are kind of a blur between Thanksgiving and Christmas, other than driving to TN to give Jasper and Jaimie to [livejournal.com profile] pyrite and driving to PA to go to the memorial for [livejournal.com profile] tamnonlinear. I missed a lot of classes between Tam's death and Thanksgiving, and while there weren't many between Thanksgiving and break, what there were I was not all there for, let's say, even though I was in the classroom.

So yeah: dread. More dread than I've felt aobut evaluations since I was a graduate student just learning to teach. So let's look at them together, shall we?

From my students in First Year Studies, I've learned that my weak points include having a "slight display of personal belief in teaching" (which is code, I'm pretty sure, for being too liberal.) And I'm timid and unconfident (I get one of these most semesters) but also harsh (which seems a bit contradictory.) I think unconfident might be code for "young and female."

From my composition two students, I've also learned that I have a very hard time taking criticism seriously when it's grammatically poor. One comment I received was "papers need to be wrote differently." I have no idea what that means...

Someone in comp 1 really hated me. (We get to see minimum and maximum ratings as well as median). "Sense of humor and proportion: 0" I was once told while still in undergraduate, by a professor for whom I TA'd, that some students just wouldn't understand my dry sense of humor. He was right. It's commented on at least once a semester, too, in these evaluations. But I think this is the first zero I've gotten for it.

I do appreciate that while some comments say I'm disorganized, others say I'm very organized. Some say I'm extremely helpful and others say I'm terrible at being helpful and need "major work." (Ouch.) I'm not an organized person, but I work very hard at being clear in my expectations to my students. I know I dropped the ball a bit this semester, but I don't think it's too defensive on my part to say "holy crap, kid, the due dates are on the syllabus."

One comment from comp 1 was that my strength is being very excellent at English (well, given the degrees I just hung up in my office today were all earned....good to know.) But the same student used three exclamation points to inform me that my weakness is that I'm "extremely biased." I think that, too, is code for "liberal." In introductory classes, I'm careful to be neutral, so this is a little upsetting, actually. But since the student did not learn enough in this class to understand that audience is someone other than him/herself, and thus some context would have been good to explain biased in what way(s), to/for what, my biggest concern here is that I was unsuccessful in teaching audience, not my perceived biases.

Let's move on to the upper level class I taught: Brit Lit. Oh, hey, those were all good (except for having had them do a 10 page paper. Poor kidlings.) Thank goodness I saved that one for last.

Conclusions: Honestly, overall the evaluations were fine. There was only one mention of my personal life having affected my teaching (I expected more.) The negatives were mainly outliers. The median numbers were fine. (I take solace in the solid 10s across the board for Brit Lit.) The negatives didn't seem to have anything in common other than my apparent bias (OMG A LIBERAL IN EASTERN KENTUCKY, BURN IT!) and that I talk too fast (I'm a Yankee in the south. I'm not shocked).

Verdict: I'll survive these. (I'm not up for promotion for another 2 years, but it all matters. And these get looked at every year with my division chair. And I've been making noise with the provost about how contracts are awarded here and that I ought to be looked at for an improved one now already, not next year, and that if I don't get it this year, then I'll need to be job hunting next year because if I don't get an improved contract next year I also won't get any contract next year, because you're only allowed to have 4 years of the kind of contract I currently have. So.

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