June 12, 2002

· Teaching

I just got my evaluations back for my classical social theory course. Students got to anonymously rate me on a scale of one to five on questions like “How effective was the Instructor?” and “Did you feel respected in this class” and “How difficult was this course?” and so on. They also got to write in additional comments, which I get returned to me with the average ratings. In general, I find that the students most likely to write something are the ones who either really love or really hate your class. Occasionally you get something a little more, uh, off-kilter than the usual “Exams too hard” and “Too much reading.” This time, in answer to the question “What suggestions would you make to impove this course?”, one student wrote:

NO MORE TUCKED-IN SHIRTS WITHOUT A BELT! Other than that, great Instructor!

This caught me by surprise. It’s true what people in the Ed Biz say: a teacher can really make a difference in the life of a student. I obviously bugged the shite out of this one for most of the semester.

I had no idea this was a rule. Since moving to the U.S. I’ve been careful not to wear white after Memorial Day (or is it Columbus Day? Thanksgiving?) and to avoid wearing white socks with black shoes (and vice versa). But that’s about it. I think I’m supposed to read these comments reorganize my pedagogical approach in the light of them. Perhaps I should subscribe to GQ or something.

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I am Associate Professor of Sociology at Duke University. I’m affiliated with the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Markets and Management Studies program, and the Duke Network Analysis Center.

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