Tuesday, March 14, 2006

No, Tell Me What You Really Think

(#2 pencils -- I find that students
comment less if I don't sharpen them.)

Tonight is student evaluation night. Tonight is the night that my students -- to whom I've been giving grades and occasionally rather frank criticism for the past 10 weeks -- get to tell my boss precisely what they think of me. Their evaluations are anonymous, and, just in case I might somehow be able to tell who the evaluator is by the highly idiosyncratic way he fills in the circles with his #2 pencil, eval. results are staggered so I don't get this quarter's evals for at least two more quarters. By then, the thinking goes, the names and particulars of these students will have been mentally flushed and I won't be able to retaliate, grades-wise. Which begs the question why do we do this anyway, if by the time I get the answers I'll have forgotten the questions, but that's bureaucracy.

If I were writing the eval questions, I think I'd ask an entirely different set of questions. The questions are not subject-specific, so the math teachers and the English teachers and the communications teachers and the physics teachers and the Professor and Mary Ann all get the same stock Qs for the students to A. So let's ask the questions we really want to know the answers to. To wit:

a. Is the teacher an easy grader?
b. Does he/she give too much homework (translation: any)?
c. Does she wear fetchingly low-cut shirts or do his pants go all the way to his shoes or stop somewhere mid-shin?
d. Can I sleep during class? Will I want to?
e. Is it like a soap opera where I can miss several weeks and when I come back, I won't have missed anything?
f. Does the teacher use words like "rigorous" and "disciplined"? Can the teacher even spell words like "rigorous" and "disciplined"? Will the teacher expect me to be able to spell them?
g. Is the teacher (a) charmingly absent-minded, or (b) charmingly absent at least half-a-dozen times each quarter?

Tragically, teachers can no be longer educators, we now have to be entertainers as well. We must compete with TV, computer games, cable, MP3 players (some of which students are sporting during class, like I can't see those wires trailing down either side of their heads), etc. I have learned how to tap dance and am now taking lessons in rapping. I'm even considering purchasing a pair of jazz hands for when I make a particularly important or pithy point. (Can't you see it? "We no longer use footnotes in composition; now we use endnotes." Jaaaaazzzz haaaandsssss!) Faced with not so much a classroom, more a cemetery, I have to either perform some arcane, occult ritual to raise my tired students from the dead (and frankly, I'm running out of goats) or bring in the marching band. Perhaps the question that should be elected Most Notably Missing from the Evaluation is, "Is she entertaining enough to merit turning off the TV?"

Thank goodness for those jazz hands.


Anonymous said...

Would that be the Marching Egyptian Racing Dogs you're going to bring in? ;-)

RaggedyAngst said...

Bring on the Salukis, baby, just don't let Gary Paulsen anywhere near them. I've read part of his Iditarod Journals, and I'm renaming them the "Ididastupidcruelthingtomydogs" Journal.