We’ve all been there a thousand times, for better or for worse.
Sitting in class week after week, amazed at the poor performance of a professor. Among the millions of thoughts running through your never-ending daydream are that this statue at the front of the room must be a cross between Michael Jackson and Ben Stein on crack. How on earth did this dude make it this far in life?
Then there is the equally-oppressive opposite. The teacher-turned slave driver who thinks he and his class are more vital than Abe Lincoln and Tim Tebow combined and is second only to God in importance. This one could be described as Michael Jackson’s dad on crack.
With either case there are 15 weeks of hell for a surprisingly small reward – hundreds of dollars out of your bank account and about 2 percent of a degree earned.
But then, ah yes, then there is that glorious chance for redemption. The chance to see your younger brothers and sisters relieved of the oppression you went through. The chance to fulfill the most basic human dream of those coming after you having it better than you had it.
That chance is, drum roll please, the end-of-semester course evaluation sheets.
I, like you, have been in the situation of wanting to lay it on my professor of scorn both here and at my undergraduate institution. However, unlike many, I have always taken advantage of my chance.
This situation was brought to a head when, at “some point in the past which may or may not have been last week,” a classmate and I, who had both not particularly enjoyed our class, were given the evaluation sheets.
I eagerly filled mine out and, as cautiously and optimistically as possible, made suggestions on how to improve the course.
To my shock and awe, I looked over to find my classmate mindlessly circling all fives (the highest mark possible) and turning her sheet in. She then returned and, to my further shock and awe, looked at my sheet – with shock and awe (hey, it’s been a long semester).
“What are you doing!?” she said.
An even more salient example came during undergrad in a class where, by semester’s end, we were all ready to pull a Col. Mustard with the dagger in the billiard room if you know what I mean.
This time the entire back page was the template for my, um, constructive criticism. Again, I looked over to find a classmate – previously quite vocal about his disdain for the class – writing one sentence and turning the sheet in.
“What the hell are you doing!?” I asked.
He sheepishly retorted, “Well… I wrote some bad stuff.”
People, listen up. Professors are not more organized, capable, devoted, or yes, smarter than anyone else simply by virtue of being professors. They make mistakes like you and I. And even a good one, like anyone who is good at anything, can benefit from input by those observing their craft. As people who watch them perform as a full-time gig, we are the ones who should provide that input. This is why the evaluation sheets exist.
You do a disservice to them, to yourself and to your future classmates by giving professors high marks out of fear or apathy.
So next semester, lay it on ‘em. They deserve constructive (constructive! Please don’t fail me Mr. Beavers!) criticism just like students do when we skip class or show up unprepared.