taking it personally

There are a lot of things I know, in a logical sense, that don't quite make it to my emotional self. Take, for example, student evaluations of my courses and my teaching. I know evaluations are flawed. The language with all of its ambiguous terms and the scale "strongly agree, strongly disagree" doesn't help. I know that the highest and lowest scores cancel each other out and with 80 students, I know that some are not going to like the way I teach.

I know these things but I still FEEL a bit hurt by the negative comments student offered this semester. There were, out of 80 students, 61 evaluations completed. (The 4 Internship students don't do evaluations because the current evaluations don't match up with what students actually do in their Internships). From the 61 evaluations, only about 15 people across my 4 classes offered comments whatsoever. Most of the comments were positive: "I really liked choosing my own topics for our essays. I thought Devon was helpful and she met with me and read my drafts many times." Some were like, "Devon rocks," which is nice, of course. And then there are mixed comments like, "It is clear Devon is enthusiastic about the subject but often that enthusiasm seems to move off track;" or "I liked this class but think it would have worked better as an Immersion course." The mixed comments as well as the more negative ones mention structure and suggest I teach with more structure or a "more clear understanding of what and WHY we're doing what we do."

The most scathing comments come from my web publishing class (of only 11 students, 2 of which I failed and 7 of which filled out evaluations) where a student commented that I was "unable to translate my knowledge into something understandable" and claimed I "depended on [students] to do a lot of work on our own using the textbook and didn't really help as much as I liked."

I'm most upset about the web publishing course because I feel like I worked really hard in that class, particularly giving a lot of help to students one-on-one. I'm concerned because next semester I have 20 Web Publishing students and I'm not quite sure what to do with them. It is not a surprise to me that structure is an issue. I am not a structured person; I don't think that way. But it's obvious that I need to do something to create some kind of structure in the course, particularly at first where I can adjust the schedule as needed. It is something I wanted and planned to do anyway, but it certainly feels necessary now.

So, yeah I'm taking it personally that students don't see how much I want them to succeed, how they don't take responsibility for their own work and how they think structure will make them more comfortable. But student evals weigh heavily in tenure cases, so I have to figure out how to address the comments in a way that is productive for all of us.