June 25th, 2011
I recently followed a colleague’s advice and gave my kids a ‘teacher evaluation’ survey.
It asked questions such as “Ms. Kaufman helps us to do our best and doesn’t allow us to turn in below average work” and “Ms. Kaufman expects we work to our full potential and instills a sense of confidence in ourselves” In short; it was a beautiful piece of mental-self-congratulatory-back-patting-academic self-confidence inducing bullshit. I took the quiz myself and was instructed to take it as though I were one of my students. I aced it. According to me, I am the best teacher EVER. I am thoughtful and kind to students in need. I have high standards but yet provide all sorts of varied resources and instructional strategies in order to make my students succeed.
I am awesome.
Then I gave it to my students for real.
I sat at the front of the room, watching them fill out their anonymous surveys, anticipating how I would read the glowing reviews, a look of dewy-eyed surprise on my face, music would swell in the background, Hilary Swank would knock on the door to my classroom and ask if she could play me in the next inspirational teacher movie…..
I totally forgot about the day before when I had passed out their totally easy (to me) final exam and announced that if they asked me any questions about this final then they didn’t deserve to graduate from high school. I also forgot about last week when I told them I would hunt them down and extract the money for any lost copies of The Color Purple by force if needs be if they didn’t behave in a responsible way and just return it on their own. I also forgot about that day when I told them to stop asking clown questions and think…..
Yeah…I may have forgotten, but they most certainly did not.
Oddly, my scores on my survey were significantly lower than what I gave myself….. It was most evident on item #4: “Ms. Kaufman welcomes questions and offers a variety of explanations in order to best explain a concept.”
Uh yeah…. I guess ‘read the freakin’ book’ doesn’t qualify as a ‘good’ answer. Huh.
I am currently studying for the FYLSE. That’s the First Year Law Student Exam for you laymen and layladies out there. I go to an..ahem…somewhat untraditional law school and get the privilege of jumping through a few extra hoops in order to obtain my JD. Where isn’t important, suffice it to say, if you are ever in trouble online, I’m your girl…er…super girl attorney…in a few years…
I’ve been sitting through a three day study session for this major exam which is reputed to actually be harder than the actual bar exam, as its purpose is weeding out the unworthy. I have been sitting as a student in a conference room at the Marriot for three days listening to all variety of questions, most of them stupid. What has surprised me most, however, is how many times I have had to stifle my own stupid questions.
Yes, I know my professor just told me that malice is not a factor in an attempt crime. Why do I want so badly to raise my hand and ask him if I could have checked C on the multiple choice question #57 because I determined in my first year law student brain that the hypothetical guy had malice in his heart when he tried to scare the other hypothetical guy by shooting a gun through hypothetical window and scaring hypothetical guy #2 and hypothetical girl. Why do I want to ask this question? Professor just gave me the answer, yet I am calling upon every morsel of self-control not to raise my hand and ask.
Then I remember Dr. Phil.
The wise Dr. Phil said on one of his Emmy nominated talk shows that the teenage brain is not quite formed. The last part to form being the impulse zone that stops us from being a dodo and asking the question that was just answered…or car surfing on a boogie board precariously balanced on top of your friend’s parent’s Volvo while your girlfriend drives down the 405 at 3am…..
I realized that I, at age 35, barely have the necessary control over my lizard brain to stop asking redundant and stupid questions. Some of my classmates have not yet mastered that……
How can I possibly ask my students to do something that I have a tenuous at best grasp on?
What will I do in the future? I will try not to slam my head against the whiteboard every time a kid asks me what page we’re on. I will try to stop throwing erasers at the kid who asks me which character was named ‘protagonist.’ I will try to stifle the urge to staple a sticky note to the forehead of the kid who seriously had no idea that Siddhartha and Buddha are the same person.
I will try. And I will pass out the evaluation next year, and I will learn something else from it….and so it goes.