Sex Ed in Higher Ed

College instructor teaching human sexuality rants about the dumbing down of America, the lost art of manners, grammar and (the perfect combination of both) the thank you note. Also includes random rants about life, pet peeves, and sometimes raves about favorite things.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Course Evals, Part Deux: Summer Session

I feel that I have had quite the epiphany over the last two weeks, and while in some ways, it's depressing as hell, in others, it's quite freeing. Ready?

I have absolutely no control over what my students write on their evals. I have no control over anything, really.

And you're thinking, "It took her 36 years to figure this out?"

Exhibit A:

I had a non-traditional student this summer who fawned over me. It actually made me very uncomfortable. She brought me an apple - which would have been cute, had she done it one time - every, single class. And I never ate them because I loathe, loathe, loathe red apples. And I'm still not a big enough, brave enough girl to say, "That's so sweet of you, really, but I'm allergic to apples." I have them do enough in class writing activities that I recognized her handwriting - very distinctive - quite well.

And the only thing she wrote on the course evaluation? Check it out:

It is not fair of Teacher Lady to include grammar, spelling, typos and that kind of thing in the criteria for grading our papers. She should grade on content only.

Two weeks ago? That would have sent me into a tizzy. Now I just shrug and say, "Oh, well. Can't please everybody."

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Blogger ProfessorDog said...

I recently read a funny anecdote somewhere about how preadolescent children think the definition of "unfair" is "affects me adversely." That seems to be the definition that your student is using.

September 23, 2006 9:57 PM  
Blogger Stefanie said...

Seriously, Zoloft has cured me of wanting praise from people I feel it's my Gob given right to get it from. My attitude now is "whatever." And it makes me feel so much better. That and crack.

September 23, 2006 11:29 PM  
Anonymous Julie said...

Good for you for shrugging off her comment, but do NOT stop evaluating grammar & spelling. What am I saying? Of course you won't. I know you better than that. ;)

September 24, 2006 10:54 AM  
Blogger Mr. R said...

I often talk with my 8th grade students about what the word "unfair" means. At first they pretty much always say that I would be fair if I treated everyone exactly the same. Then I ask them if they are all the same as their classmates. Do they have the same strengths and weaknesses? Do they have the same situations at home and outside of school? Do they all learn the same way? At that point, I ask them, if they are all different, do they really all need exactly the same thing from me, their teacher? Most students will agree that they do not. I end the conversation with asking if they still think it is "fair" to treat them all exactly the same.

September 24, 2006 10:54 AM  
Blogger Tense Teacher said...

Are you serious?! That STILL would have sent me into a tizzy. What kind of world do these COLLEGE students live in? Even my high school students know that those things are taken into account in every class, since I, their English teacher, spend so much time teaching them about grammar, spelling and typos.

I love reading your site, but I get so angry when I hear what those supposedly legal adults think. Grrrrr!

September 24, 2006 11:50 AM  
Blogger Mrs. T said...

Professordog, you hit it on the head. Of course a paper that is handed in should be graded on grammar, spelling, typos. It's important!
I'm glad you were able to shrug off the apple-wielding non-trad woman's comments. She sounds kind of creepy anyway. Do you think she maybe poisoned those apples?

September 24, 2006 7:49 PM  
Blogger Art Nerd Lauren said...

It feels good to be able to say "eff 'em", sometimes, doesn't it? This still does not make me any less afraid of course evals, though. Ridiculous/innane comments like this one, of course, are easier to shrug off than "doesn't know what the hell she's talking about". This is my fear!

September 24, 2006 8:17 PM  
Anonymous socprof said...

Indeed, this is an important realization. We have no control over their evals, period. I had a student last term who basically thought that we worked for him. He enlisted me as a second supervisor on a paper of his (for another prof), sending me drafts 12 hours before they were due, then asking if I'd been able to make any comments. He met with me constantly, borrowing books & asking for feedback, looking for bibliographies. I did this for him because I was really interested in his topic, because he actually liked intellectual conversations about the work, and because he's from an underrepresented group. You've already guessed the end, right? Nowhere in his eval did it say anything about the out-of-class lengths I went to for him. Nope. I guess all that extra work is just what we get paid for, right? On a lighter note, I have gotten evals (when I was younger) that were ridiculous - 'you know, long sweaters make a nice change from blazers all the time' or 'she thinks she's so smart - I'm tired of it.' On the latter, I thought, 'wow - she wanted a stupid professor I guess?' The main thing with evals is the preponderance of the evidence - the patterns and bulk and size of comments. The negative outliers simply have to be ignored. And one way to address students who want their horrific papers (but with good content, of course) to be fully counted is to clarify - on the syllabus and before each paper is due - what your criteria are. I also use a template that I staple to each paper, making it clear that there are objective standards and thus, making it clear where any one paper falls on a range of criteria.

September 24, 2006 8:34 PM  
Blogger Teacher lady said...

Thanks, everybody for all your supportive comments. Socprof - believe me, I have a VERY detailed rubric on my syllabus: Don't staple your paper? Instantly lose 5 points. Out of 50 points total, I count 10 of those points for proper grammar. The glut of egregiously bad writers even made me put something about not expecting a "perfect score" if you didn't follow all the criteria "perfectly." Of course, I've also run into LOADS of students who also choose not to read the syllabus, so maybe I should do the paper-stapling thing.

September 24, 2006 9:37 PM  
Blogger Fraulein N said...

How dare you grade on spelling and grammar? What do you think this is, like, COLLEGE or somethin'?

Oh. Wait...

September 25, 2006 8:42 AM  
Blogger MizMell said...

Your students are expressing their OPINIONS... and you know the old cliche about opinions...

September 25, 2006 10:05 AM  
Blogger Adjunct Slave said...

I've given up on giving a hoot about my student's SIRs (evals).

They don't like me, that's fine. They keep renewing my contract. :)

Oh, and thank you for your blog. I'm glad I'm not the only one that runs into these wonders of the educational system. And then blogs about them.

September 25, 2006 11:01 PM  

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