The fact that I almost always post when evaluations come in probably says something. What it says is unclear to me, except that course evaluations mean a lot to me. A former therapist would tut about a continuing struggle to properly contextualize outside affirmation and critique, but others might suggest that my attention to student voices is part of what makes me (I hope) a good teacher.
So it is no surprise, then, that I am posting today. I got my graduate evaluations a while ago, but not the survey course evals. Or at least the hard copies. Statistical scores came in weeks ago, and were pretty much in keeping with what I'm used, which is to say, generally pretty strong. But on the hard copies, a few of the narrative comments are less rosy, in part because I believe they paint a pretty consistent picture of me as a teacher resting on his (scant) laurels. More specifically, they suggest that in overrelying on group work, and not doing enough during group to keep the momentum of the lesson going, by harping on a smaller and smaller set of concerns, and (damningly) by being satisfied (even in short quizzes) by answers that regurgitated my own words.
OK, so this still confirms my decision to reconceive the course next time I teach it (which isn't this coming year, at least), and it will force me to re-think some of the goals and texts in new ways, to break out of a pattern that tends to lead to narrower expectations from students.
But one evaluation stung. It's an outlier, certainly, and I can almost certainly chalk it up to having rubbed one student the wrong way, which is almost inevitable. The student's narrative comments suggested I played favorites (which could be almost predicted from a student who sat in the back of the class, and never spoke in an otherwise talkative class). But that the student suggested that I was both rude to some students and "had an arrogance about him that was not comforting," well, ouch. It's so easy to write off, based on the student hirself, and by the degree to which it is uncharacteristic of comments I've received. But it has unsettled me enough that I ahve been completely unable to concentrate this afternoon on my reading and writing. I'm leaving campus this afternoon having accomplished nothing at all.