Too Many Positives Prove Problematic

Today I added photos  to my Facebook page and updated the format of this blog–all of that while I should have been summarizing student evaluations for my teaching portfolio.  Clearly I’m struggling with the latter task, putting it off day after day, dreading the need to sort and sift and distill so much information down into a few short paragraphs.  Many of my colleagues procrastinate because, according to them, the evaluations are painfully mean and negative.  This is not the cause of my delay.  In fact,  if anything my students’ comments seem surprisingly, almost unbelievably, affirming.  Evaluation after evaluation characterizes me as either the best English teacher students have ever had or the best professor they’ve encountered at UK.  Many indicate that mine was the only writing class they have ever enjoyed or the first one that lead them to believe they actually had something meaningful to say.

I suppose my greatest dilemma involves having to characterize my weaknesses as a teacher.  Perhaps, it’s arrogant to say so, but the negatives that students pointed out in evaluations a year ago seem to have evolved into positives in the last semester.  Clearly I’ve worked hard to improve peer work shopping, developing a strategy that involves meeting personally with each student group and coaching them through the process during the 1st several units of the semester.  In evaluations from the fall of 2007 students complained about the process and indicated that it did not benefit them.  More recently, however, students actually suggest that peer work shopping is one of the course components they  like best.  In evaluations from this past fall, students complain about very little and, in fact, come embarrassingly close to raving about the class.  It all seems too good to be true or at the very least too positive to be realistic.  I suspect they just really liked me and responded to my care and concern for each of them as both writers and individuals.  Clearly I connect well.  I establish good rapport.

I don’t know.  Maybe I should give quizes to assure students finish reading assignments.  Maybe I should not allow so much freedom in choosing writing topics.  Maybe I’m just not hard enough on these kids.  I don’t know.  I think the biggest complaint I noticed this past semester involved the lenghth of essays I required students to write.  However, that’s a requirement of the writing  program.  It has nothing to do with me.

This would not be an issue were I not required as part of this process to analyze my weaknesses as a teacher.  Everyone has room to improve.  I just don’t know EXACTLY what I need to change about the way I teach in general or how I can improve my approach to teaching compostion more specifically.

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