July 6, 2009

Endless Evals

So I haven't posted in a month because I haven't gotten anything done on my research, owing to my 3-week-old daughter. But as she sleeps more regularly and more often, I hope to start ramping back up to at least a semi-productive state by August.

Yesterday, I checked my university mail for the first time in about six weeks. The only interesting thing was my first round of evaluations for the Anth 101 class I taught this past spring. I say first round because I taught the course for the Friday Center for Continuing Education at UNC - and they had separate evaluations from the university at large. Of course, I didn't know this until finals week. I had already given out university evaluations on one of the last days of class (because you're not supposed to give out the evals on the final), when I found a pack of separate evaluation forms in my mailbox. After some brief emails back and forth with the Friday Center people, it was clear that they were truly interested in the results from *their* form and more or less demanded that I give them out, in spite of the fact I'd already asked for evaluations a week prior. At any rate, they just sent me the results.

Only 9 students out of 13 filled out the evaluation, even though everyone showed up to and finished the exam early. I ended up getting high marks in just about everything, with students "agree"ing or "strongly agree"ing on things like "demonstrates enthusiasm," "communicates clearly and logically," "promotes a climate of respect," and "is well prepared for instruction." Five of them strongly agreed that they would "rate this instructor as 'excellent'" (sweet of them!), and they all seemed to like the class and the subject matter as well. The free-form responses noted that I am "organized" (several times!), that I use "relevant cultural themes for college-age students" and that I'm "nice and relatable and not bored of teaching yet" (awwww). Really, the worst thing anyone said was that the class focused too much on vocab (which it probably did - it's intro).

No matter how many times I teach, evaluations always surprise me. For someone to specifically comment that I'm organized must mean that other instructors are really disorganized. I suppose I had those instructors in college too - and their classes drove me crazy. For someone to specifically comment that I'm not bored with teaching yet means that, sadly, there are instructors at UNC who go through the motions of teaching what should be their area of expertise, their main interest in life, to undergraduates. Teaching 101 this semester was a surprising amount of work, but I always felt like I was disorganized and wasn't really getting across all the information I wanted them to know. By the end of the semester, as I was having trouble standing and lecturing for 75 minutes owing to my ginormously pregnant belly and also having trouble focusing on anything other than nursery decor (and certainly not on cultural anthropology), I felt like I had totally let the class down. But I guess I didn't do so badly.

My goal for maternity leave is to work on my teaching portfolio, since I am going to try out the job market in the winter. Once I get the university evals back, I'll have everything I need to compile student evaluations for all the classes I've taught in the last 7 years. Then it's just a matter of, oh, writing up my teaching philosophy, crafting a super-spiffy cover letter, and updating my CV. I think I can get this done by August.

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