Thursday, February 04, 2010

Why do I do this to myself?

So, I had gotten the evaluation comments from last semester.

One memorable one (of course I remember the negative ones and forget the positive ones) declared my ecology labs "useless." And I was walking around since I read that, thinking about it. Wondering, what can I do to make them better? Taking the students out into the field more, as much as I'd like to do it, is not feasable, given how Motor Pool works around here and the near-fascist they have in charge of it. (And the shifting rules, and the fact that those rules shift without anyone being told...)

Anyway, I thought I had halfway decent "indoor" labs. Some are simulations, and since I'm a low-tech sort of person, they're actual physical simulations - students manipulating things or counting things, instead of using the computer to do it all. And I was thinking, maybe I just need to give in and look at the computer simulations (though given our current budget situation, maybe we couldn't afford the site licenses).

So anyway, here I am, all inferiority-complexed about my sad little labs and all. And then yesterday, I had my students working on one (it's a big simulation, and they have to do it out in the student lounge area). One of my former students came out there to study for a test in the class he was having the next hour, and he saw them working, and said, mostly to himself (but I overheard) "Ecology labs. Those were always interesting labs."

And you know, I felt good for a moment. A moment. And then I said to myself, "Wait, he was a good student. He earned an A. Of course he'd think the labs were interesting."

Why do I do that? Why should I discount a "good" student's opinion, and value the anonymous opinion of someone who might be a slacker? I've also had cases of students come back to thank me and stuff, and I find myself thinking, "Well, of course they think I was a good teacher; they'd think anyone was."

I think it's probably because I was a decent student myself, and I tended to be more "generous" in my opinions of faculty than some of my fellow students. It was because I really did enjoy nearly all of my classes, and so it was easier for me to put up with people's quirks. Or to be tolerant of those branded "boring" by others.

But couldn't, just as easily, the good students be the ones whose opinions should be more heavily weighted? Couldn't they be the more critical ones - especially, for example, if a class was too easy or contained information that was not useful?

One thing that frustrates me about myself is that I am too prone to write off any praise I receive, but really pay attention to and mull over any criticism - even non-constructive criticism (How does being told your labs are "useless" help you to improve them, anyway?)

1 comment:

Kate P said...

Can I just say you have been knocking it out of the park lately with your thoughtful, introspective posts?

I agree--it is really hard to take the negative comments sometimes. I've been hearing quite a few lately from students and it's been hard to put them in perspective.