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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Shameless Self-Promotion Isn't as Much Fun When It Counts

Every three years, tenured faculty at my college must undergo "peer evaluation"--even those of us whom most would consider peerless!  What this entails: The evaluatee rounds up two colleagues--also tenured faculty members--who then sit in on a couple of classes, take notes, and administer a student-survey.  Since these evaluations are performed by other tenured faculty--who can essentially be chosen by the evaluatee--the whole thing is quite collegial and non-threatening.  And, indeed, since the evaluatee is, not to put too fine a point on it, tenured, as long as he or she refrains from, to paraphrase Harlan Ellison, "raping, killing, and eating a student--not necessarily in that order," he or she is pretty much immune to any seriously negative repercussions.

As you might have guessed, this semester Yours Truly is due for evaluation.  On the whole, I have no objection to the process: I think I do a decent job, and I don't mind other faculty coming in and seeing what I do.  I don't mind the constructive criticism--

--except when the constructive criticism revolves around my handwriting.  Look, I get it!  My handwriting sucks!  My 'G's look like 'Ls!  My students never tire of pointing this out to me, either!  I swear there must be a clause in the Americans with Disabilities Act covering egregiously bad handwriting and protecting its sufferers from discrimination, so, if you don't want me to file a school-district-bankrupting lawsuit, Leave! Me! Alone!

Where was I?  Constructive criticism, right!  I don't mind that.  I know that people never stop learning and improving, and any tips or suggestions to point me ever upward are welcome.  Furthermore, it's always nice to see what students have to say, as it's almost always positive.  Sure, they may be saying nice things out of a sense of fear or obligation--even though the surveys are anonymous--but overall I think the students are sincere.  I have enough students who have taken multiple classes with me to make me think I'm not that intolerable.

There is, however, one part of the evaluation process that I dread: the self-evaluation.  I know I'm not alone in this, either.  So many of my colleagues complain about this part of the process.  I'm not sure why, either.  It's not modesty: If anybody asks me who the best English teacher in the college is, I quickly and un-self-consciously reply, "Aside from me?"  And why wouldn't I?  Mind you, I would fully expect any of my colleagues to do the same--that is, answer with their own names if asked the same question.  If you don't think you're the best--or well on your way--then why not?  Nor, conversely, is it a reluctance to name areas where I can improve.  As I mention above, I fully accept the idea that I will continue improving until I quit or die--or maybe not even then!

I think what bothers me is the sense that I have to somewhat justify my life.  I've just been observed by a couple of fully qualified critics: Let them tell me what I'm doing right and wrong.  I'm fine with that.  There's something more than a little Maoist about the whole self-criticism regime mandated by these evaluation processes.

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