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My Own Responses to Student Comments
January 23, 2008 - 7:21pm


One of the TAs in my group office had a public conniption today over her student evaluations from last semester. The packets had been put in all our mailboxes, now that grades are a done deal. Her fellow Ph.D. candidate talked her down with something about statistical variation, and how students are know-nothing, don’t-listen, can’t-do kids who will probably write better as a result of her class but resented the work of being made to learn. He advised her to “go ahead and be angry—scream and throw things, that’s okay!” They rarely speak, these two, but she needed an audience, and he needed to feel like a nurturer.

“Did you ever get evaluations this bad?” she asked him tearfully.

“No,” he said nurturingly.

I’ve certainly had my own bad semester or two. The spring that Starbuck was born, and I was a first-time father, my numbers were…oh lord. I was going to do a posting today that responded to colorful criticisms of me, but my student evals this time couldn’t have been much better. I’m not bragging. These things don’t mean much, in my opinion—if you work students hard, they do sometimes write revenge ratings, for instance—but I took the comment sheets down to the pub and stood declaiming the results aloud during lunch.

Still, a sampling from my creative writing and my lit classes, with my responses:

“Oronte broke my balls in a constructive way. I felt challenged as a writer.”
Better than in a destructive way.

“Very hypnotic voice—not monotone, just hypnotic.”
I learned that oratorical trick from my mother, who grew quietest right before she broke your balls.

“His writing [comments on student papers] was hard to read sometimes.”
Tell me boot t frend, sumtiiiimes i chn’t reod whut I acivodoi either.

“His exuberance made the class interesting.”
Yes, literature is my passion. Also, meth. Lots and lots of meth.

“Turn down the heat in the lecture room! At the end of the semester when everyone is sleep deprived it would take an atomic blast to wake you up if the room is 85 degrees!”
Are you the young woman who told me she felt like she was “going through menopause” and demanded I smell the inside of your rabbit-skin boots for evidence of how hard you were sweating?

“Professor Churm proved to be one of the most inspiring teachers I have ever had; I will walk away with life lessons, knowledge of literature, and the desire to live my life to the fullest.”
Thank you for that. Let’s hope they don’t catch us doctoring the evals, Mrs. Churm.


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