End-of-semester evaluations. I’ve read hundreds of them since I started teaching, but I’ll never get used to them. I know plenty of professors who never read them at all (though I suspect they are lying about this to give the impression of being impervious to student feedback), but I obsess. Evaluations are released to professors the same day final grades are released to students. Back in their hometowns, my students sit in their pajamas in front of their computers, take deep breaths, and click to reveal their final grades. I take a deep breath and click to reveal what 125 students were secretly thinking all semester.
Was I right about this semester? Was it unusually fantastic? Was I in an extraordinarily pleasant, perky, student-satisfying mood every day?
Did I pass my own test?
I start with my best class, skimming the comments. For the second read-through, I am braver. Occasionally I know exactly which student said what, though they aren’t identified by name. I work my way toward my worst class.
Some of the harsh comments make my fingers tingle, and I have to shake them off, literally. Some make me blush; others affirm what I already know. Some make me laugh out loud:
Please comment on the strengths of the instructor and the course.
Professor Jones wears something green every day, which is my favorite color.
I like this comment because it is objective and it is false, proving that the students are sometimes wrong even when they aren’t stating opinions. I own one green shirt, and I might have worn it twice. Somehow, this consoles me when I read a bit further down that I “didn’t make expectations clear.” If this student was wrong about the green, he might be wrong about the expectations thing, too.
Please comment on the weaknesses of the instructor and the course.
I just assumed we’d get an A if we turned our stories in on time and they were the correct length. But I didn’t.
It was hard to determine my grades in the class. If I asked the professor, she would tell me. But they weren’t always on Blackboard.
A weakness is that she didn’t always have chalk to write on the board with, but that’s not always her fault.
Chalk? A chance lack of chalk supplied by the university in Daniel Hall makes its way onto an evaluation form? I’m irritated at first, then relieved. That student was clearly reaching, I tell myself, when she mentioned the chalk. She felt like she had to say something.
And then I make it to the bottom of the form, where the real truth lies.
Would you recommend this professor to a friend?
What will they say? Did they like me after all?
NO! General requirement classes aren’t supposed to be hard.
Absolutely??? She is great???
I’ll take it.
Lindsey Jones is a beauty junkie. prefers questions to answers. slightly more rebellious than she seems. bibliophile. classic middle child. pessimist, cynic, or realist? writer. editor. aspiring photographer, painter, foodie, and fifty-other-things. scared of the phone. loves snail mail. is unafraid to report bad service to the proper authorities. has a noisy brain. wants her children to have funny names. hangs out in coffee shops but hates coffee.