Today I looked up the student evaluations from a class that I recently taught. Out of 21 students, 8 responded. And of those eight, one of them (who, mind you, earned an A- in the course) absolutely savaged me in her evaluation.
It’s disheartening, because the other students (the ones who bothered to complete the eval, that is) left really encouraging feedback. One said:
“He is a great, knowledgeable professor and really set the “tone” for SNHU for me! This is my first class at this university and I am extremely impressed and have recommended SNHU to many people. I hope that my professors to follow are just as great as this one was. Wish I could have him for all of my courses!”
“Professor England is an EXCELLENT instructor. He is fair and holds you to the rubric. I found myself working just that much harder and trying to get that better grade. He is available and willing to help you improve your skills no matter what level you are at. Now every time I write a sentence I stop and really look at it to make sure it is precise and concise. I really appreciated his “tough” grading-he made me a better writer, and I am still trying to improve! Thank You Professor England for all your help!”
“Dr. England has been an incredible instructor and hands down the best instructor I’ve had thus far. He demonstrates everything a professor should be and I have learned so much about this course and myself during these 8 weeks! He never gave up on me and pushed me to be my best self, especially when I wasn’t so confident in myself.”
I read these, and I feel good about the contribution that I made. I feel like I helped these students advance in their education, and that because of my influence, they’ve become better students and will be better working professionals.
And then I read the scathing feedback from the one student who resented being told that she needed to try again on the first major assignment, because she didn’t answer the assignment questions. I think of the hours I spent giving her detailed feedback, giving her additional chances to submit re-work without penalty, of the encouragement and guidance I provided… and it’s hard not to feel like I wasted my time. Those were hours that I could have spent working with other students, or heaven forbid, spending time with family and friends.
I know it’s silly, and that one disgruntled person’s opinion doesn’t make or break the impact that I have in the classroom. But as someone who’s on the job market for a full-time academic post, it’s so discouraging to now have my average evaluation score brought down dramatically because I got few responses, and just one of them was awful.
Friends in academia, any words of wisdom here?