Thursday, April 24, 2014

the results are in...

This week we had our students fill out the annual feedback forms, their opportunity to tell their teachers what is going well, what is not, and how we can become better.  The results are anonymous and to be honest, one or two really angry students with hurtful comments can ruin a teacher's day and maybe more.  I treat the process as an opportunity to get things right and find ways to get better.  Even so, my fingers are always crossed and as usual, my students gave me some things to think about.  When I got to my final course, Statistics, I opened the response file, and it was blank.  Something had gone wrong, and the student responses were not collected.

The next day I came into class and asked them to fill out the online form again.  I figured they'd be kind of annoyed to have to redo this work.  The class is populated with second semester seniors, ready to head out into the world, restless, desperately wishing high school was over.  If anyone was going to be critical of my work, it was this group.

But in the end, they left me the most positive and constructive comments of all.  These seniors, these almost adult, still teenager, straining to escape, fearful of jumping into the world young men and women actually ended up making my day. 

And at the exact moment I was wrapping up this blog post, a colleague shared this Slate article on professor evaluations.  It posits that evaluations are worthless and the solution is that they should not be anonymous.  Read it and let me know what you think.

Every day of the last months of school I never know if my seniors are going to hug me, mouth off, or burst into tears.  About to face the uncertain future, afraid to leave their family and friends, anxious to escape the confines of childhood, worried about adult responsibilities, these students ride an emotional roller coaster of incredible twists and turns.  It is my privilege to help them finish the ride without puking, and this week they gave me a great big hug. 

I am enormously grateful, but still bracing for whatever comes next week. I'm well stocked with tissues and barf bags.   


  1. This is something I do every year (on my own). I believe that it has shaped my teaching far more than any canned evaluation program. I don't teach to make a difference for my state legislators; I teach to make a difference for my students. This is the first time in many years that I have senior in my English class, and I am fairly sure I'm going to be the one in need of tissues!

    1. I am glad you have had a good year with your seniors... I too believe that students can and should provide constructive feedback. I also know that not every piece of feedback is constructive, but much of it is helpful.