Grades were due yesterday, which means I woke up this morning with the thought that I could finally check out my course evaluations online. If I were a stronger person, I wouldn’t care so much about the evaluations, but being the validation-junkie that I am (exhibit A: my blog), I get a kick out of reading students’ comments at the end of every semester. This morning I was not disappointed. Let me first say that I had a great bunch of students this semester and I put a lot of extra time into class preparations and things just went well. Sometimes things don’t go so well. This time they did and my evaluations reflected this. In terms of ratings numbers, this is my second highest semester ever (and nothing will probably ever beat the summer I had only 25 students and they met outside of class twice a week to have extra study sessions with pizza and we all clicked in a way that made them better students and me a better teacher and at the end of the term I gave them almost all A’s and they gave me a standing ovation and an inscribed book about cathedrals, and well. . . that semester has ascended to semi-mythical heights in my mind and on my evaluation records). But anyway, this past semester came in a close second. I don’t want to brag, but it’s always gratifying to read compliments from the students I have worked hard to teach and have grown very attached to over the past four months. I’ll try to ignore the 2 or 3 negative remarks, including the one that suggested I only teach in classrooms with softer chairs and stadium seating.
My kids were up already and they read my evaluations over my shoulder. Ethan said, “I didn’t know you were such a good teacher.” And McKay said, “Way to go Mom!” This is also gratifying since it’s my kids I must desert when I teach and whom I neglect in innumerable ways when I grade papers and choose to put that aforementioned extra time into class preparations.
Then I read my email and found a rejection letter for an essay I submitted to a journal about two months ago. I interpret the confluence of events as a sign: clearly I’m a better teacher than a writer. And maybe, judging from the feedback I’m getting today, I should be focusing more on my strengths. And maybe even, despite the fact that there’s no such a thing as a Parent and Wife Evaluation form, I should be focusing more on the five people who matter most to me rather than wasting my time with dreams of writerly grandeur. Obviously, I don’t take rejection well.
But really, the Parent and Wife Evaluation form isn’t such a bad idea. For one, I’d like more regular feedback on things like: “Learning materials are effective” and “Course has strengthened my spiritual and intellectual skills” and the important “Instructor shows respect for individual students and their opinions.” I guess with mother’s day coming up, I may expect a card or two, but what if I had a quarterly review complete with scaled questions and suggestions for improvement? What if I could compare my efforts from one semester to the next and keep an eye on my approval ratings (which I suspect just might show a sickly little dip during each pregnancy just as my student evaluations have).
Then again, maybe the occasional “way to go Mom!” is feedback enough. Bear hugs are also good and then there’s Nora’s fishy-mouth kisses—neither of which, let me just make perfectly clear, I get from my students. McKay tells me almost every day “Thanks for all you do for us.” Ken says I’m a good mother. Ethan tells me my cooking is so gourmet I should open a restaurant. Gabie lets me come into his room and hang out with him even after he has attached a forbidding sign to the door that says, “no pepol at ol.” What do I need evaluations for?
Plus I think I’ve long since earned my mommy tenure.