Friday, September 29, 2006

RBOC: Rate My Professor, and Other Assorted items

I don't think I've ever done a "random bullets of crap" post, but I have a number of potential full posts that I don't want actually to write, so here we go:

  • I went to my Wine Store today, and I went up to the counter to buy a bottle of Pinot Grigio. I always buy the same one (Mezzacorona, 2004 - regarded as a nice economical bottle by those who know about wine and such). So I was digging in my purse for my wallet, and my Wine Store Person says, after ringing up my purchase, "so I know you know how much this costs," or something like that. I'm a blusher, and so I blushed. My internal dialogue was, "Oh God, what does it mean that my Wine Store Person is saying this? Am I a wino? I don't buy that much wine, but I'm a creature of habit! Is that so wrong?" But then I realized he didn't think a thing of it - he was just being friendly. I think this is much like how the Walgreens Pharmacist announced when my dept. BFF went to pick up her prescription, "Hey, we were able to get your Brand-Named-Anti-Depressant in generic!" very loudly in front of other customers. She called me up right after and was horrified. I think I live in a place where people have no censor button for Socially Inappropriate Enunciations.
  • Speaking of Walgreens, I have this thing where I don't let myself go to the drugstore except for when I get paid. Why is there this prohibition? I can't get out of the place without spending $50-$100 bucks. Is this a problem for everybody or just me?
  • So Flavia posted a couple of days ago about getting her first rating on Rate My Professor and being excited about getting a chili pepper. I've been burned by RMP since I've been at this new job, to the point where I'd decided that I'd never look at my ratings again, and so while reading her post made me consider looking, I refrained. Now enter the fact that I've begun looking at the CHE job search experience boards obsessively again since I decided to go back on the market. And somebody mentioned looking people up through Google Scholar, and I did that to myself, and then I decided to just regular google myself, and there was my RMP page. (Hey, they changed the interface - how weird.) So anyway, I looked at all my ratings. Only 17 have rated me (To put this into perspective, I've had a minimum of 420 students in classes since I've been at my current job.) No chili peppers, which on the one hand makes me feel quite lame, but on the other hand I know relates to my persona in the classroom. And I've got a blank face - neither a smile nor a frown, the greenn straight line mouth - as my overall signifier for my rating. This made me a little concerned at first. But then I created an account and looked at all the ratings that left comments. A) Most of the ratings come from my writing classes. B) I actually feel like the "negative" ones are ok. One is from an upper-div person from last year who attacked me in the regular evaluation, and he just didn't like me as a teacher. His comment on RMP reflected his issues with the set-up of my courses and to that, I say, I can't be all thing to all people. The other negative comments tended to be from students in the Writing Class that I Think Shouldn't Exist at My University, and the comments were really more about them hating the fact that it's a university requirement than about me specifically. And there was one comment about me being "vague" on assignments in writing courses, an issue I addressed in this post. But at the end of the day, I read those RMP ratings, and I felt like they were reflective of how students would respond to me. I didn't feel threatened, and I didn't feel like there was a misrepresentation. Yes, I expect students to come ask me for help. When they do, I do what I can to help them to be successful. No, I don't spell out "exactly what I'm looking for" because, to me, it's important that they have the opportunity to surprise me, to have their own ideas. For the first time, I'm ok with the idea of RMP. Should departments to which I apply in my job search look me up, I'd be ok with it. That's a good thing to know.
  • So yesterday I did a "writing about literature" day in my upper-div class. I felt, as I was teaching and after, slightly uncomfortable about it. I worried that I was babying them too much or that they would feel like I was being too directive for upper-level students or for an upper-level class. (note: I would not have felt this anxiety if we had a writing-intensive requirement at my university. We don't, though I think that would be more effective than the current set-up. So I run my upper-level classes as writing-intensive classes, to some extent, even though that is not something we do.) Early returns say that the class was a success. In spite of my insecurities as a teacher, students seemed to have felt that a) even if I didn't talk about anything that was new to them, the way that I talked about writing about literature made them feel less anxious about the research paper b) I got them into the "mode" of research writing earlier than they otherwise would have and c) what I had to say made my expectations clear, which has not been the case in many other courses they've taken in my department. What this tells me is that I should trust my instincts about such things, even if I feel like I'm not necessarily compelling as I bring this stuff to my students. On a related note, one of the students on my class noted that she'd never written a research paper for an English class "because there was always a creative alternative to the research paper and that seemed easier." While I offer the opportunity to do a creative project, which I note on the first day of class, she chose not to take that opportunity with me because, "it seems like you would actually expect something equivalent out of a creative project, so I might as well just learn how to do a research paper in an English class." Incidentally, the student who said this had actually heard about me before enrolling in a class with me when she was in high school, because one of her cohort had taken a general studies sort of course with me with special permission to do so as a high school student. As I was giving my spiel on writing about literature, and about how students who have taken lit courses are usually able at the art of BS and that's not what I want, my current student piped up that when I had my former-student-who-is-her-friend in class and the friend came to high school after I graded her first paper, she reported, "You know how you can just write anything as long as it sounds smart and is long in high school? You totally can't do that in college. They actually read what you write and they see through that." This report makes me feel entirely validated in how I approach student writing in the literature classroom.
  • That Lacey Chabert? You know, Claudia, from Party of Five? She's an awesome actress, as evidenced in tonight's episode of The Ghost Whisperer.

As I was writing this post what was I listening to?

Ipod Shuffle:

  • The Healing Room - Sinead O'Connor
  • Somedays - Regina Spektor
  • I'm With You - Avril Levigne (I know, I know, but it's a great song!)
  • No. 13 Baby - The Pixies
  • Trigger Happy Jack - Poe
  • Seether - Veruca Salt
  • Sweet Thing - Van Morrison
  • Come Back From San Francisco - Magnetic Fields
  • How Soon Is Now - The Smiths
  • 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten - Lucinda Williams


Wiccachicky said...

On wine - I get the same kind of feel. I go to a small local wine shop, so everyone knows me. I've taken to buying a case at a time because then I don't feel as much of a whino stopping in every two or three days to replace a bottle.

On RMP - I had a big rant about that earlier this month on my blog. But I think you're right, most of the time the comments ARE sort of reflective of what students think about you, even if it's the idiots who spend time on RMP.

Flavia said...

I wound up feeling much the same way about RMP when I was at my previous institution (where over the course of a year I got 6 or 7 reviews): although individual evaluations sometimes seemed odd, or mean, or whatever, on the whole they made sense to me, and the overall picture they gave of me wasn't totally inaccurate.

The chili pepper thing is often inexplicable (and FYI, I had none at my previous job). My BF has a million RMP evaluations and no peppers, and he has colleagues who are, ahem...funny looking...who have several. Sometimes I think the pepper is less an assessment of hotness per se than it is a signal of general approbation: you're cool, you're sympatico. I suspect that in many cases it just means a student likes you personally, and being a hardass in the classroom may make it difficult for the kind of student who hangs out on RMP to see you that way.

I'm basing this partly on what I've seen of my female colleague's RMP evals. It appears that female students often give chili peppers to female instructors (while I doubt many straight male students give peppers to their male instructors)--but those evals always say, "she's so sweet! And so funny! And so nice and helpful!" And, well, that seems to be an assessment of how well a female instructor fulfills the students' expectations of femininity: would the instructor make a good mother, sister, or friend?

Shaun Huston said...

I am _so_ disillusioned to learn that you watch The Ghost Whisperer :-) (some Joan of Arcadia being canceled and replaced by this show bitterness here).

Another Damned Medievalist said...

I just looked. five weeks into new school, and I have one rating -- a frown and a pepper. Whatever.

Dr. Crazy said...

Flavia: I think you're on to something with your theories about the chili pepper.

Wiccachicky: Yep, I go to a local shop as well, and I think that's part of the thing. I suppose I could go to the Big Chain place, but why would I do that? So perhaps I shall have to start buying by the case as well instead of just popping in on the way home? Or maybe I just don't care?

Shaun: Ok, so I never watched Joan of Arcadia, but I know that it was supposed to be great. I can see why some might not like the Ghost Whisperer, but I really do encourage people to give it a shot, a) because it's campy, b) because there is something truly satisfying about the formula of it, and c) because they've just added Camryn Manheim and Jay Mohr to the cast, which I think is pretty awesome indeed.

ADM - "Whatever" is exactly the right response to that. I'm still not going to make a habit of checking over there - I don't think it's good for me - but I'm glad to see that things were looking up since the last time I went over there and saw some really vicious stuff.

RateMyEverything.NET said...

you can also post yourself on We also have a professor / teacher section