Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Mentor’s Musing: On Evaluations and Anonymous Commenters

(In which one gets a taste of how it feels to be a political candidate.)


Every semester, teachers in the university I work in receive a form summarizing how their students rate their performance. There is also another longer section showing students’ anonymous comments, which may be of any topic from your voice to the way you dress or your inability to be absent from the class.

I started teaching in the second semester of SY 2011-2012 and have so far received three evaluation forms rated as superior, outstanding and superior, respectively. What really baffles me is the section with the comments. I won’t be hypocritical. I love reading positive comments more than negative ones. The negative comments make you want to come to your class with a new set of students with a vengeance they are not aware of, but they are somehow lucky since your vengeance is to prove yourself better than what they might think of you. But the positive comments are what really drive you to keep on doing what you’re doing since “haters gonna hate” anyway. It’s one of the biggest pats on the back a teacher gets, albeit printed on paper. 

But after an hour of contemplating about the 25% negative comments (It’s just an estimate. And a probably erroneous estimate at that. It might have been larger.) on my form, I realized that positive comments certainly drive me. But they don’t change me the way negative comments do. Compliments make me appreciate what kind of mentor I am but sometimes I’m scared they might make me stagnant. If truth be told, the criticisms really make me want to show what I’m truly made of.

Some of the criticisms I received include the following. (Note: I couldn’t remember the exact words since I’ve signed and submitted the form. The words are mine. But the idea’s theirs.)
1. She’s so mean.
2. She’s masungit.
3. She has no teaching strategies and motivation.
4. She gives more activities than my MAJOR subjects. And she gives lower grades.
5. She speaks too fast I can’t understand her.

And so to redeem my pride, please allow me to explain myself.
1. I’m sarcastic. And I’m worse if you don’t have a sense of humor.

2. Am I?

3. I have to assume that this one comes from a Technical Writing class, which is kind of frustrating since I explained to them that our focus was writing and not lecture. Where in the world will you insert a perfectly-crafted lesson adhering to a perfectly-crafted lesson plan when you only have 4 months to write a research paper? Somebody help me!

4. This one’s rather frustrating too. I believe my performance as a professor, which relies heavily on the level of academic freedom I am allowed to practice, does not depend on how other professors practice academic freedom. I hope these kids realize someday that the lessons I presented to them were presented differently (for good or for bad) in other classes. In other words, I adjust myself to what they can give. The lessons are directed by their speed, not mine. I don’t see any fairness in comparing my class to other classes.

5. Every semester, I tell my class that I am flexible. That I do take suggestions and I don’t care to repeat. In fact, I do repeat questions and statements several times especially when their facial expressions betray their “Yes!” as a response to the ubiquitous classroom question “Do you understand?” I like it when they tell their problem the moment it arises, not in the comfort of their anonymity shielded by computer cubicles.

But then I know my reasons are, just like what an old friend told me, the same “lame excuses every bitter professor says”. Let me say that this “bitterness” ends with this post. I do not wish to be obsessed with people’s perception of me and share the fate of Maître Hauchecome from Guy de Maupassant’s The Piece of String. 

It’s just that, we all deserve to be heard.