I received my teaching evaluations back from one of the universities at which I was employed last semester. Overall they were mostly ‘negative’. ‘Negative’ in a relative sense, I got 3.72 out of 5.0 when the minimum is 3.9 and 4.3 earns you a letter of commendation. How to take the criticism? Some of the comments were extremely helpful and even thinking about students assessing my performance helped me think about my teaching practice. Some questions were not really relevant (no materials in the library — didn’t use the library; lack of direction — I didn’t have much direction either as I was given it 2 weeks before semester with no material!! etc.). Adjusted then, I got pretty close to the ‘minimum’. If I was to teach the course again (which I am not), then it would be very different. Some responses were interesting however, especially the critical comments about my blog. Here are some cut’n’pasted comments from the section about me (that don’t include any indentifiable references to the course). Spelling, etc. retained from original, while numbering has been added:
1) I feel that Glenn is not confident in his teaching. I also would like to take this opportunity to raise awarenes to Glens blog on the net. I feel this blog is inaapropriate especialy when students work is mentioned
2) A bit vague at times but fun dynamic and extremely interactive. I liked having a younger teacher as he made me feel like we can actuallyachieve this as a career in the near future.
3) He is a good lectureer and knows his stuff however sometimes he can be a little intimidating to approach & not always gives adequate feedback
4) Not always approchable often very negative towards students
5) overall – a good teacher
6) mumbles – but we have realised that is how he talks which is understandable. Straightforward which is good but I believe he could be better and he has a blog which is weird and unprofessional
Hmmm. Weird and unprofessional? Really? Maybe my students don’t understand they can write comments on my blog if they don’t agree with something I have written, as a few students have in the past? And that I am even willing to let through abusive and offensive comments as I have also done in the past (albeit not from students, not unless they moved to Korea).
In a certain sense, I do have a real problem being ‘professional’. ‘Professional’ has a number of senses. ‘Professional’ can mean the construction of a persona for the purpose of some sort ritualised social relation organised around the service-based economic exchange of skilled labour. I am pretty good at what I do, and I am learning all the time, so I don’t think it was this sense of ‘professionalism’.
There is another level of ‘professionalism’. I understood very quickly I needed to be ‘professional’ for the sake of my students who cannot cope with their teacher being human; affectively, it is a question of comfort. (A bit like not wanting to think about eggs as baby chickens.) The problem is I don’t believe learning is meant to be ‘comfortable’. Some students can cope with being uncomfortable, question why they feel uncomfortable and rise to the challenge of whatever is uncomfortable; others want to expel whatever stimuli is producing discomfort (‘this is too hard’, ‘you are not nice’, ‘weird’, etc.). Sometimes this lack of teacher-as-robot ‘professionalism’ is a product of having an excess of charisma and the opposite problem of students being too comfortable arises. This is the problem I had with one tutorial cohort second semester last year. I guess I need to find a balance.
Of course, the distinction between public/private is reproduced in the context of the university, especially those universities that directly service the bourgeois… So the presence on the internet of something that these students would like to keep private (even though I have never revealed any identifiable information when discussing students), means that these students find it uncomfortable or even offensive. It is odd how some students readily admit they are being lazy and so on, but others want to cover up such character flaws. Having a blog doesn’t really allow you cover up anything…