A manila envelope in my box: course evaluations. I opened it and thumbed through the pages, noticing (and skipping) those which stayed inside predictable boxes: the perfect column of “exceeds expectations,” the zig-zag alternation between 3’s and 4’s intended to suggest real thought, and of course the completely blank. Two evaluations caught my eye, however. Both had single sentences below the same question: Does the instructor exhibit enthusiasm for his subject?

One response—looped cursive, probably a Bic: He is always super excited about poetry and the way he joked, wandered around, and even cried helped me learn.

The second—block capitals, probably a green Pilot V5: I found it hard to pay attention and stay awake sometimes because he didn’t really have much energy or excitement.

I slid the evaluations back into the envelope and returned the envelope to my box. Walking to my car, I wondered if I ought to cry, or think of a joke, but I had trouble paying attention to what the evaluations said. New snow was slanting from the sky and tumbling across my windshield, flake by flake, and it reminded me of the beach sand I used to blow from between the spread pages of my textbooks in college.

David Jacobsen lives in central Oregon where he teaches, edits, and writes. He is the author of Rookie Dad and his website is



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  1. April 11, 2012

    Haha, “The way he cried helped me learn.” That’s passion.

    • April 16, 2012

      More like allergies. Or dust. I would never cry during class reading, say, Dulce et Decorum Est.

  2. Dyana #
    April 11, 2012

    A green Pilot V5 was my weapon of choice in middle school.

    • April 16, 2012

      I miss using Pilots for everything. I still grade with green and purple ones, but I just can’t write longhand anymore. Too much typing.

  3. September 12, 2012

    I love this. I used to pore over evaluations, feeling personally hurt by every negative comment. Now I glance at them, on the way to something else, to see quickly what I need to see. Is your professor approachable? That’s the question I want to learn from.

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