Grading Nazi/kindergarten teacher/saint: Processing student evaluations

I am midway through my third year teaching solo and it never ceases to amaze me what a visceral experience it is to read student evaluations. My composite scores are great--a lot of 'em love me, a lot of 'em like me, one or two hate my guts. The numbers are easy to take, but it is the open-ended comments that leave my stomach churning.

For example, for one student, I am the best teacher at ASU. For another, apparently I run an after-school program. For one person, I am approachable, kind and provoke creative thought. For someone else, I'm a rotten b***h who f***ing grades the f***ing tests too hard. I'm both too easy and too strict. I maintain a "really fun, open environment" but don't prepare students well enough for tests (i.e., I don't tell them exactly what will be on the test and run through it the day before). Perhaps the most potentially crushing comment of all--someone said they didn't learn a thing about communication and apparently it was my fault.

After precisely three minutes of soul-searching--am I bad teacher? How do I make sense of these conflicting comments? How is it that these students who "didn't learn" anything or didn't feel prepared "enough" earn perfectly respectable Bs?--I've decided to move along.

Sure, maybe some people don't connect with my teaching style. I run a tight ship where I expect that students (and their homework) should show up on time. I grade rigorously because I want As to mean "excellent" and not "nice try." I concentrate on class periods that work through and practice concepts of the course rather than spitting out information at students. In doing that, I presume students can read.

While I admit, I have a lot to work on... I would like to practice facilitating more meaningful discussion. I plan to get student work back earlier than expected. I will make a point to connect the fun activities to chapter material so the linkage between theory and practice is crystal clear.

But I will not compromise on quality, dammit. For students obsessed with getting into "the real world," I will hold them accountable to "real world" standards and deadlines. Do a sub-standard job? Get a sub-standard grade. I will also do my best not to internalize (too much) their feedback but rather, learn where I can and not let the criticism constrain me. Finally, I will start this new semester with excitement and optimism. (Can't say my evaluations will go up if I act like Eeyore now will they??)


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