Reading student evaluations is never a fun process for me. I am, by nature, someone who shakes off positive feedback in order to focus like a hawk on anything negative (of which there are, thankfully, usually not many).
This weekend I was going over my course evaluations from this past fall. For the most part, the comments from the students were glowing but unspecific. “Great teacher.” “Enthusiastic.” “Liked his unique style.” “Awesome professor.” Etc. There were the usual complaints about “too early in the morning,” of course, which don’t really reflect on me, and the one negative about me personally was not — I don’t think — serious: “Dr. Livingston’s glare off of his bald head really makes it difficult to concentrate.”
I breathed a sigh of relief.
But then I wondered if perhaps they just weren’t being forthcoming in their negative feelings. The evaluations are anonymous, but maybe they nevertheless worried about being honest in such a forum. So, I checked out ratemyprofessors.com, which is always a hotbed of malcontent.
Nothing much there, I was surprised to see. And the one recent comment that was there was this:
100% MAN. This guy is the epitome of what a professor should be. He insults you, proves you wrong, will throw a war axe at you, but will never lead you astray. An excellent teacher overall. Show up to class, read the text, and have a good thesis and you’ll not only get a B – A but you’ll learn something too.
I’m slightly annoyed by the implication that it’s so easy to get a good grade — though, frankly, “have a good thesis” is not nearly as simple as it sounds — but mostly I’m heartened by the comment, which strikes me as fair in its details. That said, I’m still trying to analyze exactly what that “100% MAN” is supposed to mean — and what on earth it has to do with my teaching.