I believe that student evaluations are as important as the evaluations I receive from my colleagues. When I ask students to complete evaluations each semester, I tell them that their writing is important – again, as I have all semester – and that writing does things. I let them know that their writing will appear in places like my website, in my future syllabi, or in PowerPoints or other presentations I do for later classes. They become the experts on attending my class, even more so than I am – I know what I intend for them to get from class, but only they can confirm that they actually absorbed what I intended. For instance, in his ENG 112 evaluation, one of my students had this to say:
Ms. K was my ENG–111 instructor and ever since then she has been my best and favorite instructor ever. She has helped me grow so much through genuinely challenging me with the assignments provided. She opened my mind to so many other possibilities in writing and expanded upon my capabilities as well. Best of all she allowed me to accept how good I was at writing and let go of my insecurities of “am I good enough to be college level writer?”. Thank you Ms.K –J
“J” was indeed a great writer, and struggled to see his own potential. We worked a great deal on the process of understanding writing as being a messy undertaking, and by the end of the semester, J. was happily approaching writing as a practice versus an exercise in perfection. My relationship with J. in both my 111 and 112 classes was extremely rewarding for me as a teacher – seeing the light come on for a student is the reason I continue teaching.
Further, the evaluations I receive help me make decisions about assignments. After one semester in which my final reflective essay received consistent negative critiques from students in class, I did some reflection of my own and revised the assignment substantially. I learn from my students every semester, and I try to live what I teach: never stop learning, never stop practicing, and writing is messy – as is writing about writing.
There are other types of evaluations, though, apart from the official ones created and maintained by the various schools, and those are the letters, emails, and comments to me and about me that my students share. I wrote about the most recent letter I received from a student, and the most moving one, on the page “COVID-19.” While it’s incredible to have a student who feels strongly enough about what she has gotten from a class to sit down and put pen to paper, the comments students make to other teachers are important, too, in their own way.
Being written about in the CPCC newsletter, “The Communicator,” was a real surprise. I had my suspicion I knew who the student was (I found out later I was right) but his kind words to Marsi Franceschini were a surprise to me. Having a student speak in such a way to another instructor was another of those times when I felt like maybe what I was doing was going ok.