Sunday, March 30, 2014

Don't Grade Angry

I always give mid semester surveys (based on the end of course surveys the students take) so I can see where I am, and where the class is and make course corrections before the end of the semester. I genuinely take the comments to heart, and make changes. If the students have complaints that for whatever reason I can't change, I always make sure to address these in class, and explain why I can't change these things.
I consider myself a reflective teacher, and I think this is part of it. When I get negative comments, my first thought is always to seriously think about what I did that caused it. I love teaching, and honestly want to help my students so I take these things seriously. I also take them to heart, which isn't always a good thing.

When I checked this semester's results yesterday, most of them were positive, and a couple (due to the weird wording of university surveys) were unclear, so I plan on having a follow up survey to clarify. Then I saw two entries- both of which had the exact same comment, although one had scored me higher than the other. The comments tell me that I have made them hate writing. That I put them in groups for no reason. That I'm not a good teacher. That I try to be "cheery and sweet" but am really passive aggressive. One does not recommend me as a teacher, while the other doesn't like me as a teacher.

I have to tell you, even after thirteen years of teaching, this upset me.
Because I do care. I care about my students, I care about them learning.

I stewed about it all day yesterday. I've stewed about it most of today. And none of my student papers are getting graded because I have a firm belief in not grading angry, and I am angry, and upset.
But not probably for the reasons you're assuming.

I'm not angry at these anonymous students. I'm not mad because they had the temerity for insulting me and being ugly. I'm not upset because this student says I've made him/her hate something they once liked.

I'm angry because there's no purpose to this.

There's nothing here I can work with. Is it two students? One student who posted twice? I have a hard time believing that two students posted verbatim comments.
But there's nothing here I can change. I can't improve this.
If they had said they didn't understand the lectures, or that they needed more prep in writing drafts, or understanding the readings, or navigating the technology we use- all that I can work with. I can fix that. I can improve the experience. Because I do take these seriously, and I do use them to make improvements.

But there's nothing I can do about this. And that upsets me. It upsets me because I can't tell if this is just a student who doesn't like me for whatever reason or if they really need help in the course. It upsets me because it's not true. It upsets me because my teaching does mean so much to me.

So I won't be grading today.
I pride myself on getting papers back by the next class, as I think timely feedback is the only feedback that matters. But I'm going to give myself a pass on that this time. My students may not understand, but I know it's in their best interest.
Perhaps tomorrow I'll feel better.


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