Evals came back from last fall semester and, oddly, the class I gave up on (see Cutting Your Losses) scored me some of the highest numbers I've ever had. Frankly, I'm flummoxed. What course were these students taking? I mean it sure wasn't the one I taught.
The course I taught used every active learning trick in the manual and all I got in return was the mannequin challenge. I eventually gave up trying to reach them and--horror of horrors--I reverted for a while to lecturing off Powerpoints.
Okay, so there are a few possibilities here. Worst case scenario these students were fine with a more passive learning environment and didn't really want to engage. Best case is I simply underestimated them and their interest in the material: romantic poetry, realist painting and modernist architecture (how could these subjects ever be boring, right?). By the looks of the comments, however, it really does seem they were more engaged than I realized.
How did I miss this?
Then again, maybe it's not such a chin-scratcher. One of my shortcomings is an inability to read people well. I've learned through experience, for example, never to trust my first impressions. If I met the saintly Mother Theresa, I would undoubtedly think she was a sneak thief. I'd be hiding the silver. Creepy Chuck Manson, on the other hand, would seem like a prince of guy. I'd be loaning him money. I have been so disastrously wrong with first impressions over the years that I don't even try to second guess myself. When I do, I still get it wrong.
But you would think I'd figure out a group of students after spending three days a week with them for four months. Well, you would think.
All of this reinforces what my wife often says: I know nothing when it comes to people.