Student Evaluations

Every quarter in the last week of classes, I get this email saying come pick up your student evaluations. This term “student evaluations”—come to think of it—is sort of misleading since it would seem to imply that students are the ones being evaluated.  But, no, student evaluations are actually evaluations by the students of their teacher.  So they should be called “teacher evaluation” since that’s what they really are. 

 Where I work, these come in two forms: statistical and narrative.  In the narratives, students are supposed to write something about the class, the teacher, and the content of the course. I don’t know why these are called “narratives” since students never write anything approximating a narrative.  They just state an opinion or make an observation or two.

As regards the statistical part, students fill out a scant Ron sheet with two questions on it:

Rank the Instructor

Rank the Course

As accordingly:


Very Good




Next quarter I will get an email saying the results of your statistical scores are in your mailbox.  So I will go over there and find these sheets with numbers on them; the little black marks that students have put down have been digitized, I guess one would say, and turned into numbers that tell me whether I have scored at the average for all of the sections of the courses I taught or above the average and by how much or below the average and by how much.

I have been getting these “scores” for over 30 years and they still freak me out every time I have to go over to the mailroom and look at them.  The whole business seems vaguely dehumanizing.  Like that bathing beauty contest in the Miss America Pageant, or as if somebody has put me into the American Idol Contest.  And I sure wouldn’t want to be in that contest.  It’s not about who wins but all the people who are humiliated in the process of proclaiming as the winner the person who has been least humiliated.

I am embarrassed and ashamed that I even care about these damn numbers.  Even when they are good numbers I am not really happy; I just heave a sign of relief—well, that’s over for now.  Anyway, I handed out those forms this week and the students filled them out and stuck them in a big yellow envelope, and now the office then and next quarter I will get his email saying the scores are in my box.  And I will feel humiliated all over again, because, you know, it is humiliating.


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