Stewing on Course Evaluations



Course evaluations. I looked at mine on Monday. I've been stewing ever since.

Yes, stewing is the right word. The recipe is rather simple. First, you toss in all of the stages of grief, then you add a dash of self-doubt and self-loathing.

My numbers were fine(ish). A little lower than in the past. But I did make some changes to the course. So revisit, revise, and try again.

I can handle the numbers. But the comments... Actually, it's one comment. One comment that is literally surrounded by positive comments. But one comment, nonetheless. The theme is something to the order of I HATE YOU!

It's been a while since I got one of those. And I can rationalize past it. I'm not perfect--not at all. I can accept that some students just won't like me. It happens.

But this doesn't stop the "feeling like a fraud" stew. 

Instead, all of my worse insecurities have come to the surface. Specifically, there is my persistent fear of becoming irrelevant, of becoming That Guy who time has passed by. Maybe my routine worked with Millennials. But Generation Z isn't having it.

Oh, and then there's the impostor syndrome. Every single one of my colleagues had a fantastic semester. Their reviews were all glowing. Glowing with love. So it's really just me. 

OK, so as you can see... none of this is particularly healthy or productive.

What do to?

I once read something from Kristin Armstrong where she described her process of taking a burden for a run. At the beginning, she picks up a rock and pretends that this is the thing weighing her down. After some miles of pondering, she throws the rock and liberates herself from the burden.

Easy enough, right? I tried "rock therapy" on Wednesday. It didn't work. I gave the rock a really good throw too.

I need another idea--and interestingly, Armstrong might have one.

In writing this blog post, I Googled the original article and re-read it. After she describes her rock-tossing method, she goes on to discuss another practice of keeping a daily gratitude journal. With this, she takes time each morning to write down ten things that she is grateful for and why.

The outcome?
When I wake up and start each day this way, it changes everything. Things that used to bug me now brush right off, like lint on a sweater. If I feel a complaint coming on later in the day, I can quickly shift my thinking and look for the silver lining (even if it’s just funny – “Well, it could have sucked much worse”). When people say insensitive things, I lean towards compassion and release it rather than getting pissy or flinging one of my trademark zinger one-liners. It has been almost two weeks and I can feel something happening. Maybe there isn’t a marked change in what the universe is giving me, but there is definitely a transformation in what I am giving the universe. I have read about the power of gratitude in hundreds of books and articles, but I am beginning to understand it in the intimate terms of my own life, in both a mystical and practical sense.
Gratitude. OK, maybe I can try this tomorrow.

And maybe I can even start by being grateful for evaluations. There are good ones. Lots of good ones. I tend to take those for granted and I shouldn't. Those students are trying to tell my something too. I owe them the dignity of listening attentively--instead of stewing.

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