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Teaching

Friday: February 15, 2013

My teacher evaluations from last semester came in today so I got to be reminded of the feelings of pure and utter judgement. I expected an average score, with possible complaints of:

  • No dates on the syllabus
  • No access to the “powerpoints” (I actually use Keynote, but I feel that “powerpoint” has become like bandaids and kleenix)
  • Not loud enough
  • Too many emails

My syllabus had everything in order, but without due dates, so I announced when things were due in class – typically giving them an entire week to do the assignments, and most of the time things were always due on Monday. They knew of all the assignments – everything was listed from the beginning. I did that because having never taught before, I had zero idea of how fast the pace would be. One chapter per week? Two? Sometimes a mix? I suspected this may be a source of complaint because some students constantly “did not know it was due today”. I find that statement hard to believe considering I always wrote it on the board, announced it verbally, reminded them over the course of several days, AND sent emails out. I believe that even though this actually was a source of complaint on the evaluations, I did well above my duty at a college level and feel no shame. It wasn’t something I liked doing, however, but now that I know how many slides I can get through in a day, I think I have the pace figured out enough to not have that be an issue in the future.

I did not upload my presentations for a few reasons. The primary reason was that they were not finished in time before class – I tweaked until the very last moment. It is an OCD problem of mine, I guess. Second, my power points did not say anything that literally wasn’t directly from the book. I did that on purpose, since, again, I had never taught before, I felt that I should stick to what the professionals were teaching for my first round. Third, while I do agree that a small few would greatly benefit from having access, I believe that it handicaps the majority by giving them the impression that it is ok to not pay attention because they have access to “all my notes” – whether this is true or not is of course debatable. In fact, one of my professors is testing this concept currently by providing access and will compare to past semester grades. This, of course, was a complaint on my evaluations.

No one said anything about my quiet voice (I do try to project but it just is not who I am). No one said anything about too many emails (although I did offer this question specifically on a survey I gave them, and a very few did feel I was spamming them). No one said anything about me not reprimanding the talkers enough (their grade suffered, sure enough, and I talked to them both during and after class, but they were definitely giving me problems). I know this isn’t listed above – but I was curious if anyone felt I didn’t have the classroom under control. Sometimes I wondered.

Overall, I probably learned more than any of my students, but also overall, I was rated pretty high. Interestingly, I taught two sections, on the same days with just an hour between, and received very different results. My first class – the class I expected to give me the lowest ratings since it was at 9am and I was barely alive, plus if I made mistakes or whatnot, I had time to fix them by the 11am class – rated me super duper high. My second class (with the troublemakers) rated me average – but on the low end. My chair says it is one of the things he hates about the evaluations, because I was the same teacher, teaching the same material, and yet I ended up with vastly different responses – what the heck? There is really no way to know considering it is confidential and I can’t seek students out to ask, but I suspect it may have been because my second class had mostly upper classmen – bored students who waited too long to take a 100 level class, who had “lives” outside of school, and the like. Whereas my first class, mostly freshmen, had no idea what to think about college yet, studied much more (’tis true – higher scores all around!) – actually did the reading assignments – and got a better experience out of the class.

How do you teach people that life is what they make it?

And with good timing, today I applied for my first job. I am not sure if there are any openings for the fall, but I sent the chair an email along with my updated CV. I told boy it was his valentine’s day gift – that I may have a job in the fall when I come home. I will need to adjunct at several locations but I want to see how just one goes for my first semester as a real teacher. If the school I applied to doesn’t take the bait, I have a few more in mind (but I admit, it would sadden me considering I would love to be a part of their growing program).

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