Monday, November 01, 2004

I'm Good Enough; I'm Smart Enough...

...and doggone it, I still find I need daily affirmations from other people. I was thinking about it this semester, as I've been switching careers and really learning to teach and be a 'professor' -- and I am finding that, just as I thrived on affirmation from professors when I was a student and from bosses when I was working in a staff position, I still need that as a teacher.

Seems silly, I guess, but I e-mailed a syllabus for a new course to my department chair last night so she could send it on to the appropriate committee. Now, this is the first syllabus I've done that anyone has seen, aside from my students and one very helpful colleague. I wasn't sure what the reaction would be. So I ran into the dept. chair this morning, and she said it looked great, very detailed, and she was sending it on to the curriculum committee for approval. Ah, success! It's such a small thing, and all it amounted to, in reality, was getting something off my to-do list, but that tiny little affirmation was a lift. An affirmation, I suppose, that I'm not a total fraud and I do in fact know what I am doing.

I wonder how I'll react to student evaluations at the end of the semester. While I know that the students rarely give them the thought we would hope they do, and that many factors influence how a student rates (i.e., if you're at all hard, some students will automatically rate you lower). After the midterm debacle, with almost half the class failing, I anticipate at least some low ratings. Which is fine. But I know when I read some nasty personal comments that I'll have a hard time with it since those things always stick with me. I'm going to have to learn to have a thick skin and put those things in context, but it concerns me.

Also, since my annual tenure evaluation will basically have only these student evals to fill it out, it worries me that they might be poor. I'm learning as I go (as a teacher), and I am struggling just to keep up with all my class preps, so my creativity as a teacher has been rather low. In certain classes. But I don't know, maybe the students disagree. I've gotten good vibes from a lot of students, and of course there are a bunch sleeping through class, too, but that one is a fairly large class, so there are going to be some sleepers.

But really, how shallow is it of me that I check my ratings on I just had to know (in case you're wondering, only one student has seen fit to rate me, and the rating was pretty decent, really).


At 9:06 AM, Blogger AiE said...

... and gosh darn it, people like you.

All of your feelings, emotions, and doubts are very normal to being a "new professor." In fact, most professors never outgrow these feelings entirely (the overly confident and quite arrogant ones seem to, but I trust you're not headed in that direction).

I know this probably won't make you feel better, but at least the election and its long-ranging, far-reaching implications have a way of putting these things into perspective, no?

At 9:13 AM, Blogger New Kid on the Hallway said...

FWIW, I check my ratings on all the time. ;-)

You will get used to reading evals and to figuring out what's valid criticism and what's just ridiculousness. And my experience is that tenure-review folks are very understanding of how evals work, and certainly recognize that if one is completely new to this, one's evals may be spotty to begin with. Over the course of the tenure-track they're really interested in seeing improvement (I mean, if your evals are great to begin with that's cool too, but if there are any problems this first year - which you don't know there will be! - they won't weigh that heavily).

Personally right now I'd rather obsess about evals than about the election...

At 6:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have this experience too, as does virtually everyone I know. It's surprising what a difference a little good feedback can make.

What I try to do is to remember that this goes the other way, as far as students are concerned! It's so easy to remember the agony I and my friends went through in grad school trying to please our professors, just to get minimal comments on papers - and then I turn around and do the exact same thing. It's easy for me to know that anything I *don't* comment on is good, so my comments only highlight things that need more work or attention. But to the student (or colleague), that just looks like a bunch of negative comments.

My point: a little daily affirmation is good for everyone! :)

At 8:15 PM, Blogger TerminalMFA said...

Excellent point, Anonymous. As I was grading papers the other day, I noticed on several of them that I was getting pretty negative in my comments. So I made an effort to also relay some positives (it wasn't easy in a couple of cases). It's something I am becoming more aware of. Why is it so much easier to delineate the negatives? I find it much harder to describe the positives, but I'm making the effort.

At 11:03 AM, Blogger chutry said...

I've only been rated twice since I've been at Tech. I know there are student-run databases that mine average course GPAs and other info, so probably doesn't get as much traffic as oter sites for my students.

I'm sometimes troubled by these sites, in part because of the criteria used to evaluate professors is usually framed by ease and sexiness, not necessarily interest. At Tech, there also seems to be a problem with how the English department is perceived, partially in terms of politics (1-2 profs were called out for being "militant" feminists), but also in terms of the importance, difficulty, or relevance of English classes (English is perceived as easy, boring, and irrelevant). That could be due to the way that frames the preception of the classroom and the kinds of students who are likely to contribute.


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