I respect students as persons who deserve to be treated with courtesy, which means, minimally, that they should not be harassed or singled out for ridicule or graded up or down on the basis of gender, ethnic, racial or religious affiliation, or sexual orientation. But this courtesy and respect does not extend to their ideas, which may or may not be given a hearing depending on the instructor’s preferred teaching style, and which may be summarily dismissed if they are judged to be beside the pedagogical point. Treat them as human beings with inherent dignity by all means; but don’t treat them as sages before the fact.While I don't agree that we can summarily dismiss their ideas--with proper discussion, mighty oaks of good ideas can grow out of little acorns of bad ones--he has a point.
Fish quotes a lot of commenters as saying that they feel hurt if they get bad evaluations. That's something that we've all experienced--forgetting the 30 good evaluations and remembering in vivid detail the one from the student who obviously hated you. Why do we beat ourselves up about this (besides the issues of hiring and promotion)?
I think Dorothy Parker had it right in "Two-Volume Novel" when she talked about unrequited love:
The sun's gone dim, and
The moon's turned black;
For I loved him, and
He didn't love back.
Now, the sun doesn't necessarily go dim, but we put a lot of ourselves into those courses and those students, so when they don't love us back, it hurts.
I looked at my course evals for spring recently, and while they were good overall, there were a couple of students who were sort of "eh--who cares? It was okay, I guess" about the course (and me). Some of you may remember the course on flying dinosaurs that I was so excited about teaching. I had poured all kinds of energy and time into that course, neglecting my writing in favor of lavishing attention on pedagogy and interesting assignments. While some really liked it ("fantastic course"), a few comments were along the lines of "all the flying dinosaurs sucked."
Now, while I understand intellectually that the comment speaks for itself (then why did he take the course, which was conspicuously titled "Flying Dinosaurs"?), emotionally, it feels as though I loved the course and students and they--or one, really--didn't love me back, even though I've been teaching for long enough to know not to take it personally. For them, it was just another course; for me, it was a project in which I'd invested a lot of time and effort.
What to do? Disengage from your courses and students so that you have no investment in them? Can you really do that and be an effective teacher? Or get cynical (like "Dr. Bob," one of the commenters Fish discusses) and cater to an entertainment mindset, handing out A grades like M&Ms?
Or maybe this: next fall, scroll back over to this post and think twice before responding at length to every assignment or spending hours over preparing a single class.
What do you do?