Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rate this, butthead.

Dear Disgruntled Grad Student—

I was sorry to discover, in my packet of course evaluations today, that you hated my class. And, it’s clear, hated me. I’m especially sorry to learn that you felt I was unresponsive to student concerns and unavailable to provide guidance—and a bit surprised, since every time I handed back a paper, or handed out a paper assignment, I urged you to come and visit with me in my office. Indeed, beyond my regular office hours, I was usually in my office on class days from morning until after sunset, and on the days when I wasn’t on campus, I checked my email frequently, responding as soon as my responsibilities would allow to all queries.

I understand that you felt that I only gave comments “after grades, which wasn’t very helpful”….but I’m not quite sure when I would have had the opportunity to give comments before I had work to comment on. And while it’s true that I spend more time assessing papers after they’ve been turned in than I can during a brief office visit in which you float a vaguely-defined impulse of an idea for your paper, I did try to explain to you what might be problematic as you proceeded on your course of research.

You seem to be particularly angry about the grades you received on your papers. I can only say, without apologizing, that I made clear in the case of every assignment that I expected only two things: make an argumentative claim and prove it. All my comments on all your papers indicated the ways in which you failed to do one or both of those things. I don’t have allegiance to a particular theoretical school; I don’t care whether I agree with your ideas; it’s all about your argument. That is, after all, what you will be measured by if you choose to pursue this profession.

Finally, as to your complaint that the course didn’t feel like a grad class but rather like “An undergrad course on steroids,” I sincerely wonder what you felt the course didn’t ask of you: you did a long research paper, a conference paper, read a massive amount of primary material and a significant amount of secondary material, and had to teach two sessions of the class. If (and this is the only cause I can come up with for your complaint) you’re upset that I talked a lot during the course of our class meetings, I would remind you that your class was unusually quiet, shy, recalcitrant, and if I didn’t fill up the air, no one did.

Ordinarily, DGS, I would read your evaluation with a smirk, knowing in advance that you were going to let me have it (your paper grades predicted that response) and then move on with my life, thinking of your comments from time to time as I think of all the ones that haunt me, the single poor remarks in an otherwise well-received class: with some regret, and with soul-searching, but in perspective. But because your class was so small, your comments and the accompanying bubble-number scores really screwed up my course average, and pushed me well below my usual threshold. So to you I say, since you wouldn’t go to my office to talk at length about what you could have done to improve your experience in the class, since you refused to tell me to my face what issues you were having with the class as it progressed, you can go to hell. Where, I have no doubt, you will find things to complain about.

With love,
Dr. Girl


Dr. Write said...

Ha ha! Student evaluations in hell...I'd like to see those.
"It's not so much hell, but more like Phoenix on steroids."
I have no doubt that this type of student would find things to complain about.
I'm with you: screw 'em!!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like someone's "evaluating" you when they should be evaluating themselves! SO frustrating...

((((Ren Girl))))

ps: My word verification is "robfo" which of course sounds like "mofo" and I wanted to tell you just in case his name was Rob and then you could laugh. ;)

Ink said...

Hey, that was me above. I pressed submit by mistake. Sigh.

Lisa B. said...

Well said, well said. A perfect world would allow--nay! ensure!--that said butthead would have to read these comments aloud. In front of a jury of his peers. Boo, passive aggressive student. Boo, I say.

squadratomagico said...

What a dickhead!

Blue Cheese said...

Again -- I know people . . .

lady jane said...

one of my very few regrets about my time as a student was not having the chance to take one of your classes. stupid people stink.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Girl,

After having read your letter, I thought that you made some valid points that I would do well, honestly, to address.

First, I understand your frustration in how I was unwilling to talk with you during office hours in order to discuss my concerns with the class. To be perfectly honest, as a disgruntled grad student, it's a lot easier to bitch about a class backstage than have to have a face-to-face confrontation. In retrospect, I should have come and talked to you early in the course. Then, perhaps with so small a class, we might have found a way for me to accommodate my attention-hungry, insecurities about academic rigor. I can only say in my defense that I am scared of my position in academic limbo--we disgruntled grad students are in the Awkward Adolescence of academia, and should be generally treated as if we were pimply teens at the prom.

Of course, it doesn't help that, as a disgruntled grad student, I oscillate between being overconfident of what I think is my brilliant intellectual acumen and a sudden terror of being in the <1% of the population with grad school education.

You know, it may just be that my platonic ideal of Graduate Class may be somewhat different from yours. Surely you, in your graduate experience, had teachers that you liked more than others? I don't expect to you change your curriculum, much less teaching philosophy, based on the caprices of each of the hundreds of students you teach. You can't, and no one can, win them all. It's incredible, even jaw-droppingly shocking, how many of them you do, have, and will win. But no meaningful win ever was unanimous. Think beginning of Paradise Lost.

Finally, I can only apologize. I'm only now, in my part-time freshmen-teaching, realizing that teachers think about their students almost as much as students do their teachers. I'm still inclined to see life in an "us versus them" of students against teachers. If I were to think of you more as a colleague, I surely would have been more tactful. If I were to think of you as a human, I would have been more kind.

Hell, it turns out, is other people. Specially people like me.

Ex, oh, ex, oh,

Disgruntled Grad Student

Renaissance Girl said...

Dear DGS--

If you'd written as well, and as lucidly, in your papers, you'd have got an A.

Dr. Girl

Anonymous said...

Somehow it is worse when a grad student is the perpetrator. They can't be excused under the rubric of student silliness...