Evaluation

I just read through the course evaluations for my two classes that I taught at Large University this semester (music history 2 for music majors & popular music for non-music majors). I have seen enough course evaluations (or class climate surveys or whatever they’re called) to know that they should mostly be taken with a grain of salt; but I also believe they provide valuable information for me, especially for a new-to-me class or format, something that this article also points out.

As a first-time music history instructor, I was more concerned with that course’s feedback, and thankfully, over half of my nearly 70 students responded. Aside from the (requisite?) “music history is irrelevant and/or a waste of time for performers” comment and the student who basically wanted the answers to all of the tests, “is that so much to ask? (actually, yes, yes it is…),” the bulk of the feedback was overwhelmingly positive and helpful.1  

I am incredibly happy/relieved/encouraged that my students had a positive experience in my class (and liked me!), but I am most pleased that more than a handful of students commented that I seemed to care for them as people & wanted more for them than *just* learning music history. And it’s true. I reminded them to take care of themselves; to make good decisions; to be good friends; and also to study, come to class, and keep up with assignments. Even though this was sometimes done in a humorous way or as a quick comment, I’m really glad that students noticed, and found it meaningful.2  

One of my mentors used to say, “Every class has its own personality.” Sometimes classes just work, and sometimes they don’t work. Thankfully, this one did. Yet while I bask in the positive here, I am not naive: I worked my tail off this semester & at times I was barely hanging on to my four jobs by a thread; not to mention the state of contingent/adjunct/part-time faculty is pretty much one big mess; plus, I still don’t exactly know how I will pay all of my bills in academic year 2018-19. Yet for now, it’s mostly working for me, and I’m grateful for the chance to talk about music while still having some sort of positive influence on a group of (mostly) talented and interesting emerging adults.

But to the one who didn’t think my jokes were funny: you’re so wrong.
And to the one who said, “Please hire her as a full-time professor!”: obviously, you are a genius.

 


1. A portion of this positive feedback was a referendum of sorts on the students’ rather miserable and disastrous Music History I experience, as many stated in the comments; but I’d like to believe at least some of them had an objective opinion about our class. Also, to the many students who said 70 was too big for this class, I agree.

2. One student said that these sorts of gestures & comments “made me feel like there was at least one person in this building who cared about me. Thank you for that.” Yikes. Also, students did actually say they learned a great deal & the majority of respondents said that the class challenged them to think and learn.

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Trade-offs

Something that I’ve come to terms with as an adult is that life is often about trade-offs. The freedom of (single, childless) adulthood is awesome, but often it comes at a cost. That is, awesome things regularly require an exchange for something not-so-awesome. The catch is knowing what the trade will be going into the situation, and accepting the terms. Time? Money? Relationships? Fun? Sleep? You gotta know what currency (and amount) are you willing to pay for the awesome thing!

As I mentioned in my last post (two in two weeks!), the benefit of having my four jobs is flexibility, while the downside is making up work and/or not getting paid. Next week, I’ll head up to Nashville for the Americana Music Festival, where I’ll get to see a ton of great live music, see a bunch of awesome people, and also help out with the Backyard Bash (sponsored by Bloodshot & Pandora).

I’m super excited about this, but it also means that at well past midnight on a weeknight, I’m putting together an online quiz for some of my Music Appreciation classes.1  

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However, it also means that I get to email (and receive email from) some really cool musician-types about the party next week.

I am totally willing to trade my “free time” to do work right now (even though it’s a little bit stressful, and honestly, annoying, and really, I’d much rather be in bed…) for the fun and freedom of heading to AMA next week. It’s an adult thing, I guess.


1. It also probably has to do with the fact that I have been known to put things off until, well, later.

Win some, lose some…

I have many things to grade, and one final to revise, so this is the perfect time to blog! A few days ago, I stopped by Trader Joe’s, and just as I could not resist the $.89 tiny gourds in October, the tiny, glitter poinsettias called my name. I bought two. Here’s where we are today:

Trust me when I say that I have treated these little plants with equal (moderate-to-low levels of) commitment. But clearly, the results are varied: one is thriving and has even grown new leaves; the other is dying a rather quick death. I’m only a little bummed because these cost a bit more than $.89, but I can’t be too sad, since at least one of them is doing so well.

See also: teaching college students…1 

I gave a final this morning, and as a student turned in her exam, she said, “I have thoroughly enjoyed being in your class this semester. Thanks for caring about music and caring about us.” It was one of those moments that make me so thankful to get the opportunity to teach college kids about music/culture/history.

Likely around the same time that this was happening, I received an email from another student in another class, stating, “hey, what’s this Mozart composer guy. there’s like at least two or something. ???” It was one of those moments that make me question my life choices, while simultaneously inspiring rage and maniacal laughter.

This sort of feedback is just beginning, so let’s all hope that stories like the former are more prominent than the latter. Happy finals week, folks!


1. Please note that I exert at least a moderate-to-high level of commitment to my students. Er, most of the time.