Thursday, May 01, 2008


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.


allysha said...

I'm not sure I could handle mommy evaluations...but although I can guess that some lows would be LOW, I imagine there would be some highs that would probably surprise me.

Congrats on being a good teacher, AND on having mommy tenure!

P.S. I've been meaning to ask you, which textbook do you use for your class?

My Ice Cream Diary said...

One of the hardest parts about pregnancy for me is knowing that if there were mommy/wife evaluations I would fail them during this time.

I love feedback, on everything. After 10 years of marriage my husband was telling a friend of ours how much he loves the way I fold his shirt. I was so happy that he even noticed I could've bust. But why did he take 10 years to let me know?

chris said...

I wish my children would see that I'm a good teacher. They've heard it from my students but I don't think they fully believe that I am a good teacher. I guess they just see me as Goofy Daddy.

I'm glad I found your blog.

julie said...

You have some pretty appreciative kids! Wish mine were so vocal about their gratitude.

I loved your post about thrifting because I identified with it so much. Thanks for letting me lurk about your blog for a while!

Anonymous said...

I asked my 5 yr old what she liked about me as a mom. (I know, deep question for a 5 yr old!). Her answer? "You let me scrub the floor."

Annette Lyon said...

Good thing we get mommy tenure, huh? I'm not sure I'd *want* regular mommy evals from the family . . .

Congrats on the ones you got from your students--now I'm sort of wishing I could be a fly on the wall in your class and watch you in action.

Anonymous said...

We didn't have teacher evals in Mauritania and I could never decide if that was good or not. I do know that at the end of my first year, when I was in despair at all my mistakes and felt so bad for my students, one of the best of my students told me, "You taught us everything we know!" He meant it as a great compliment, in case you were wondering.
As for parenting evals, I don't think I could handle the guilt--I'm plenty good at giving myself that. I'm afraid that our human tendency to notice other people's failures (and our own successes) would magnify every cross word and overwhelm me. So I'm glad I've got tenure. ;)

Jenna Consolo said...

I'm sure you are an amazing and gifted teacher, but you really are equally as talented at writing. Don't you dare tell yourself otherwise! In fact, when I'm crafting something to submit, I OFTEN think of you and how brilliant your posts are. You are an inspiration and you better keep putting yourself out there!

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

I have a hard time with rejections too; if I get one, all I want to do is crawl under the bed and stay there for the day, licking my wounds and vowing never to write anything again.

Rachel said...

As far as the writing goes, you are by far one my favorite blogs to read. I love how you incorporate your spiritual growth, your mothering and pieces of art into beautiful essays. Each time I finish one of your pieces, I feel different that I did when I began. You bring me places with your writing and you help me process my own thoughts and experiences--and then you tie it to some beautiful piece of art. You inspire me to be a better writer!

Ann Kroeker said...

You wrote "...I interpret the confluence of events as a sign: clearly I’m a better teacher than a writer."

Phooey on the rejection. Every time I read your posts I'm in awe of your writing talent.

It would be like Einstein concluding, "I'm a better mathematician than physicist."

That's silly! He was genius at both!

I think you're an Einstein. You're a genius teacher and a genius writer.

I don't know how great of a dad Einstein was, but I'm certain you are a genius mom, too.

tjhirst said...

If I went on mommy evaluations I would be the worst cook ever and adults even think I make really good food. I just can't trust their opinion on all things.

About the writing versus teaching. That is very subjective. In my experience rejections are not a good evaluative technique since the editors often seem to be looking more at the audience and whether it fits what they are looking for. That doesn't really say anything about the quality of writing, which you know you can do.

Teaching, on the other hand, feels immediate and dynamic, which brings its own feelings of success.

Pale Bear said...

B) Yours is the only blog I read.
C) Yes you got a rejection but you've also been published and paid and won essay contests.
D) Did I mention that you should keep writing?