The reviews are in...

The spring teaching evaluations came back today. They were sitting in our faculty mailboxes, which means that every professor who regularly scoffs at their reliability was at some point locked in his or her office poring over every single number and student comment. We may pretend to our colleagues that we don't pay them any heed, but we really do.

We all want to know what the students think of us. My own evaluations were good and a few were excellent. I always end up with a bit of cognitive dissonance when I get good evaluations. Here's an amalgam of comments from the most recent set:

I truly enjoyed this course. The discussion were great. I actually liked coming to this class. You really helped me to step away and look at things from a new perspective. This was by far the best course I have had in college. You are an excellent and passionate professor. Besides courses in my major, I think I learned the most from this class. Each day was a very enjoyable experience. You really cared.

Okay, not that I should be complaining because these are very nice things to hear from students, but what course are they talking about? It certainly doesn't sound like the course I remember teaching. As I recall, that course was filled with many, many excruciating failures. I was not as prepared as I should have been on many days and often felt bumbling and inept in the classroom. I spent hours complaining to my wife or commiserating with colleagues about how the course was tanking. I rushed through important material, sometimes got things out of order and felt guilty for speed grading whenever a raft of more papers was on the way. Most of my efforts to gin-up in-class discussions went nowhere, and I seem to recall a few weary sighs and even feint hostility in response to some in-class exercises.

Maybe I'm looking at it all wrong, but the students are terribly, terribly forgiving on these evaluation forms (practically saints). It's either that or we live in different universes.

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