Regardless of where you work, one of the most nerve-wracking experiences can be your performance evaluations. Why is this nerve-wracking? Because no matter how talented and capable you are, and regardless of how good of a job you actually do, there are factors that you have absolutely no control over that can affect your evaluations. This can be a boss who wants to eliminate your job, a colleague who has a personality conflict with you, or a student who doesn’t like the subject you teach.
Well, one of the nice things about being a teacher is that all of the students you teach get the opportunity to evaluate you anonymously. I just got mine for the past semester, and more than half of them gave me the highest possible score on the three questions that reflect the instructor’s competence:
- The instructor maintained an environment that helped me learn.
- The instructor effectively communicated the subject matter.
- The instructor demonstrated respect for the students.
Now, I’ve been teaching for a few years, have consistently gotten excellent evaluations, and even won a teaching award back in the 2006-2007 academic year. (Go, Badgers!) But there are always people who don’t like you and don’t appreciate the job you do.
Don’t let it get to you, especially if you find some unjustifiably critical comments. (If you’re lucky, you will get constructive ones as well.) To help you through this, I have provided some anonymous (and derisive) student comments on my teaching, but I have also accompanied them with a translation and my response.
The labs were too long. The professor should’ve made them shorter.
Translation: I don’t want the three-hour lab I registered for to take three hours.
Response: You have unrealistic expectations, and clearly did not read the course description before signing up for the course, or the syllabus that I gave you once you had signed up for the course. Try getting your work done instead of goofing off with your lab partners.
Quizzes were too often!
Translation: I don’t have sufficient coping skills to handle one quiz a week every single week.
Response: Seriously? Quizzes and homeworks were how I determined your grade in the course. It kept you honest about doing your work, and this is further proof that you wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t quiz you on it. Grow up.
The point system is unfair!
Translation: I didn’t get enough points to get an A and I need an A or I won’t get into medical school and become the doctor I need to become or my parents will be disappointed in me!
Response: You’re going to be an awful doctor.
It would help to not have this [class] at all, three hours of wasted time I could have used to study for other classes.
Translation: I didn’t want to be in this course at all.
Response: You shouldn’t have been in this course at all. All our lives would have been better for it.
Some of the quizzes were hard.
Translation: Some of the quizzes were hard.
Response: Some things are harder than others? Really? There isn’t a “duh” big enough for this one.
Some of the things we did were very elementary.
Translation: Some of the things we did were very elementary.
Response: If I collide you with the person above you, will you annihilate one another in a giant matter-antimatter explosion?
Fire the instructor. Also — most of us chose a small school for professor taught courses. I shouldn’t have to deal w/ a TA regarding quizes.
Translation: I have a huge, unrealistic sense of entitlement that should offset my inability to even use proper spelling and grammar.
Response: They won’t fire me because A.) I’m good at my job and B.) you appear to be an idiot. You did have your course taught by a professor, and your “TA” is my “grader.” That’s what graders do, and we have them so that I can spend more time on teaching your course.
He wanted to be a friend more than a professor. I feel he let personal feelings guide how he interacted with students.
Translation: I don’t think the professor liked me, and it showed.
Response: I tried very hard to hide it, but yes, I can’t stand you.
Overall, that’s eight negative comments out of all of my evaluations. Only one of them — the one about some quizzes being hard — appeared on more than one evaluation. The lesson to learn from this? Evaluations can tell you at least as much about the people evaluating you as they do about you. Plus, they provide a fantastic outlet for passive-aggressive responses!