Sunday, July 23, 2006

Teacher Evaluations

I've learned a lot about teacher evaluations since I started to teach. There's a lot that college students don't seem to understand about teacher evals, most importantly that bad reviews can get a professor canned. I gave very few bad teaching reviews in college, and have gotten very few teaching test prep. But I've never forgotten the ones people have given me. And the non-nasty criticisms I've really taken to heart.

Some people are really awful in their reviews, though. I had a migraine one night and ended class 15 minutes early. A student came up to me and wanted an explanation of a problem. My head was killing me and I told her so, offering to meet her ten minutes early for the next class. She said "No, that's OK." and turned away. I felt so bad that I chased her down and offered to teach her what she wanted right there. She said it was OK again and left. Next class, I asked her again and she said she'd looked over the stuff and she understood it.

The problem is, I made her mad later in the course. Near the end of the course, she came up to me after class and said "I didn't bother to use the techniques you taught us on the easy problems you assigned, and now I don't know how to use them on the hard problems."

"Well, that's why I told you to use them when you were doing the easy problems."

"But I didn't because they were easy."

I, gently, I think, told her to go back and use the techniques on some of the easy problems and she would probably find that would make her more comfortable with them and she should have a better time doing the hard problems. But she went away in a huff as if I was making her do her homework a second time to punish her.

Needless to say, I got an extremely nasty review about how if I were going to end class early, I needed to be available for students with questions.

All of this comes to mind because I just wrote the mid-class review of my LSAT teacher (we do teacher evals twice a class at my test prep company.)

My instructor is doing a good job, and he was my friend before I even started the class, so I wrote the following:

Plato, Anne Sullivan and that guy from “Stand and Deliver” all pale when one is in the presence of pedagogical greatness like that of Moe “money Mo’ Problems” (last name redacted in blog version.) Moe’s LSAT class is more exciting than the movies, sexier than a strip club and cheaper than Broadway. One time in New Orleans, I saw a talented and convincing drag queen in a gold lame’ mini dress do a just show-stopping rendition of “Goldfinger.” Watching Moe talking about logic games is better than that.

I laugh, I cry, I want to take his class again and again.

Yet it isn’t just the entertainment. I truly feel that Moe has improved the quality of my legal mind. Just sitting in his class, I can feel the insides of my brains expanding. When decades from now I am on the Supreme Court and have written the unanimous opinion on some crucial decision, people will read it and go “Oh, THAT Justice must have taken her LSAT prep class with Moe.”

And someone else will go “Didn’t they all?”

Silly, yes, but it was certainly fun to write.


Ps. If you're interested in Teacher Evaluations and you want to help out a psychology student you could click here. Of course, you will be asked to rate imaginary professors based on a description of a few charictaristics of the class and the professor, actual quality of teaching not included. So I think it's weird and didn't participate. But you can if you want.


PeaceBang said...

Are they going to think that you're being sarcastic because he was really boring and stuff?

It's a funny review but I don't know that anyone reading it can necessarily figure out if its meant to be a joke or not.

Anonymous said...

When I do teacher evaluations, if there's a place, I try to write examples of why I think what I think so it's not just vague impressions. And I only have done negative reviews on someone I really really thought shouldn't be teaching.
I had one professor who persistantly gave you the strict rules for how you should do an assignment on the evening it was due rather than when she gave out the assignment. and wouldn't accept them late.
and then I couldn't get her off of my thesis committee, so it induced me to be really overprepared for my oral defense.... which then went really well because she actually liked my thesis (or was impressed that it was 187 pages...)

Anonymous said...

I got fairly positive comments from my students when I taught the LSAT, though the ones from students who showed more interest tended to be better than the ones from students who expected me to improve their scores with little work on their part.

I don't think I can let the "bad reviews can get a teacher fired" aspect affect my reviews of others. As it turns out, my bad reviews generally have been of the tenured folks, so it doesn't much matter.