Saturday Feature: If We Were Having Coffee

Image from Death to the Stock Photo
Image from Death to the Stock Photo

I’d tell you that everything is running late today. I woke up late this morning, around 11:00 (thank goodness for Sam and Little Jedi letting me sleep!), and at 12:30, I’ve just had breakfast. Little Jedi is sitting beside me wearing his Avengers pajamas, playing with a Batmobile, and watching Max and Ruby. I’d tell you that I wonder where Max and Ruby’s parents are. Sam is sweeping, and I think we could construct a new dog with the fur he’s swept up. We’re supposed to go to the park and get ice cream, but no one seems in any hurry, and it’s ok with me that we’re lazy today.

*****

I’d tell you that my teaching evals this semester weren’t as good as they normally are, and that I’m struggling to find out why. I’d tell you that I’m finding it difficult not to be offended by comments made about my appearance in one of them, and that I’m wondering how often my male colleagues have their appearances commented on and/or my fellow girls with piercings/tattoos hear that kind of commentary. I’d tell you that I recognize some of what happened this semester, but that I’m confused about a lot of it. One of my classes did well and gelled; the other never gelled, and those were the teaching evals that weren’t as good as usual. I’d tell you that I find the evals helpful in some ways, but that in other ways (suggestions that I don’t do enough for students, despite offering multiple conference times, commenting on rough drafts, and offering revision opportunities) I cannot account for the results. I wonder how helpful these things are and if there’s some better way of getting feedback on what happens in a classroom.

****

I’d tell you that I’m getting ready to teach my first online section of 101 in the fall, and I’m excited but nervous. I’ve taught another course fully online a few times, but it’s a junior level technical writing course. This will be my first time teaching a freshman level course fully online.

****

I’d tell you that Little Jedi starts his first summer week with his dad tomorrow, and I’m happy for him but sad for me. Little Jedi’s dad and I divorced when he was about a year old, and every summer, since we live within an easy driving distance of one another, we do 1 week here, 1 week there. I’m excited to have the house to myself again so that I can do more comps reading, but I’m going to miss having Little Jedi under my feet all day. It gets quiet around here after about the first 2 days—eerily quiet. I’d tell you that I’m so glad that he has a father who spends so much time with him, and that I’m glad we live close enough to one another to do a 1 week split rather than Little Jedi being gone for weeks at a time.

****

And I’d ask you, friends, what you’d like to talk about today if we were having coffee.

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  1. This week has mostly been spent trying to catch up on all the things I was going to do this month, before my June class starts next week. Trying to finish some books, edit a chunk of my novel, and reorganize my living space. Pondering blog schedules and features. You know.

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    1. πŸ™‚ I’m so glad! It’s fun for me to write, and I am enjoying the conversations these things spur. It’s a perfect Saturday feature for this blog, I think.

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  2. If we were having coffee, I’d rant about the fact that women’s appearances are ALWAYS commented on, but men get a free pass. Just the other day, I was looking at yet another Worst/Best Dressed List, and do you think there was one solitary man on this list?

    I would also ask you more about how classes “gel”. I am not a professional educator, but I do mentor a pre-teen/young teen writing group at the local school. The first year I mentored, it was a fabulous experience. This past year – not so much. Too many kids, and I don’t feel I brought my “A” game.

    I’d also order lots of chocolate treats.

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    1. Isn’t it strange? The only time I remember seeing guys in the best/worst dressed lists are when they’ve worn something very, very bad (like a navy blue suit and white sneakers) or very, very good. Women get criticized no matter what they wear, it seems.

      As far as classes gelling—this class never really started talking to one another before and after class. They didn’t really talk to me much, either. I’d try to get them talking, and they would talk during class some, but to one another and when they didn’t have to? Nope.

      Chocolate treats approved. πŸ™‚

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      1. A lot of times I wonder how well professors pick up on the tone of a class and whether or not we talk to each other before/after class. My first theory would be individual members of the class people didn’t want to interact with, so the whole atmosphere was stifled, but that hasn’t held up since I’ve been paying attention. The physical classroom seems to make a difference, the humanities have a new building at my school with a bunch of bizarrely-shaped rooms, and on the occasions when the room is too small for the class and people are sitting right up to the walls, nobody seems comfortable even if there aren’t actually bigger classes or people sitting closer together.

        I’m realizing this is a strange thing for me to be tracking from semester to semester.

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        1. It’s interesting, because I sometimes wonder how much students notice that kind of thing. I’m really attuned to it for various reasons, but one of them is just that you know, we’re in front of the room when the students are being all quiet before class…And sometimes it feels awkward! lol

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        2. I really have no idea how much other people notice it. I tend to be purposeful about my social interactions, it was a learned skill, and showing up early to chat is a strategy, so I notice when people aren’t chatting! I’m terrified of raising my hand in class discussions, so I also notice how people are doing that and if they’re talking to each other or just the professor in class.

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        3. I don’t remember being terribly aware of a class’s interactions, as a student, except in the few classes that I signed up for that didn’t include any friends. That was mostly my freshman year, and that’s mostly where I’m catching these kids. In the higher level courses, I generally knew my classmates, as our program was small enough to do that, both as an undergraduate and graduate. I do remember being too terrified of most of my professors to have spoken to them, though, made any sort of gesture at chatting. I liked when they’d just walk into the room at time to start and go because there wasn’t much awkwardness with that.

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        4. I do know a lot of classmates at this point because the history department is quite small. By my standards I talk to the professors a lot too, and a lot of them know at this point to just call on me if they want me to talk or want me to explain some thought I’ve told them about between classes. Or, sometimes my friends will raise their hands and say “Well, Hannah said earlier…” and I just nod. I just have a weird issue with the actual act of raising my hand in class at this point.

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  3. I came over here to leave a comment about how much I love this feature, and am writing a post about the importance of features to bloggers who blog the way we do. Then I read the post. And the thread. Sorry to hear about those evals, I know how that must hurt. Regarding the one, in particular. This is almost certainly what happened:

    Early on, you had an exchange with this student, probably in the classroom. His little narcissistic self thought you were sending him a signal that he had the easy A.

    Then, he turned in some assignments and you graded them farily and he realized, very late in the semester, that he did not in fact have the easy A.

    So, when presented with a survey, he punished you for not living up to his expectations.

    Simple as that. Don’t let it get to you any more than it already has.

    And I agree that the anonymity is a problem with these surveys, in particular. You shouldn’t be able to see the names, but someone should be able to. They should be recorded.

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    1. There’s no telling. But yes, I think someone should be able to see the names. Now I have an eval out there that says I dress “inappropriately,” and it seems unfair to just have that out there with no way of knowing who wrote it and being able to verify/deny the claim. It’s not going to be taken terribly seriously, as it’s only one in a string of consistently positive written comments, but it’s there now, and it’s a gendered remark.

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  4. A few years ago my wife recieved a comment in an eval, by a male stundent I assume, that said “I am uncomfortable when Dr. King doesn’t wear a bra.” What? My very modest wife would would sooner set her own hair on fire than leave the house without a bra. Her evals are almost always positive but this comment was specific, a lie, and irritating. I too hope that one day a better way to garner feedback is developed.

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    1. It’s so strange, because this particular comment mentioned my nose-ring (and I’m certainly not that only instructor with piercings or even the most obvious ones) and that I wore “inappropriate” clothing. I don’t wear inappropriate clothing. I dress really modestly. It seemed like something designed specifically to both hurt my feelings and get me in trouble–and that sounds like what your wife experienced, too. So very strange!

      I know that the impulse for student feedback is a good one, and I think we do need it. I just struggle with how much to take into account, how much to assume is just disgruntled students and/or students who just want to finish with the evals, and how much of the feedback is truly useful. I do wish there was some better system. Surveys are just—problematic.

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  5. Boo on those comments you’ve received on appearance =< It's certainly not their place to judge.

    I'd tell you that I had a pretty boring day really. Not much to talk about except that I have this friend that can be very difficult to deal with. Sometimes I can't tell if he's joking or not but I don't really want to say anything for fearing of appearing too sensitive.

    I say keep your chin up and always focus on the positive even if sometimes it is easier than done.

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    1. It’s only the one, but it’s such a bizarre and what seems mean-spirited occurrence that it stung. It’s mostly about me not dressing “professionally” enough, apparently, though I dress rather conservatively–I just don’t wear skirts/dresses or business attire. But most instructors don’t. Ah well.

      Thanks for the kind words. πŸ™‚

      And I have friends like that…I find that being upfront, even if it is not fun in the moment, is generally the best.

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  6. I remember lazy Saturdays like that when my niece and nephews were little. Enjoy them!

    Ugh. When I worked in a hospital, I had a male supervisor knock points off of my evals because of my appearance too. Not quite the same thing as having it happen in classroom evals, but I always wondered if the same thing would have happened if I was male.

    I’m just realized that it’s almost supper time and I haven’t finished anything I meant to do today. Talk about a lazy Saturday! Oh well.

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    1. Oh, they’re so fun! I’m definitely going to miss them as things get more hectic. As is, we have only a few weekends like this here and there.

      I was actually reading something just yesterday about evals and how much more often women’s appearance is commented upon than male’s appearance. I’m not sure how scientific the study that was performed was, but it was an interesting read nevertheless, and it started me thinking about that in regards to my teaching evals.

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    1. haha…I suppose, though if it’s my treat we’re probably drinking cheap coffee. πŸ˜‰

      I shouldn’t let the part of the evals that is bothering me get to me, as there are some valuable things that I can learn from them. Just got to let the negative roll off and learn from the stuff that is actually useful feedback.

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