Ah, student course evaluation time—one of the few moments each year when you can be completely honest about your teachers and tutors because you’re protected by the sweet, sweet shield of anonymity. It’s your chance to tell the truth about how you feel and to help improve classes for future generations.
However, some evaluations are so brutal that they might make you spit out your coffee from laughter and feel bad for the staff whom the comments were addressed to. Adam Rothman, a professor of history at Georgetown University, shared one of his students’ anonymous comments comparing his charisma to a house plant.
He started a viral Twitter thread as other professors and teachers shared their own hilarious experiences with student evaluations. Scroll down and enjoy, dear Pandas. And be sure to share any funny evaluations you’ve written or received in the comments.
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Professor Rothman’s tweet got over 3.4k likes and was reshared nearly 500 times at the time of writing. Bored Panda reached out to Rothman for further comments about the anonymous course evaluation and what it felt like being compared to a house plant.
People are weird: we say that we want truth and honesty, but really, we don’t. We really, really don’t. Few of us would be emotionally resilient enough to listen to other’s unfiltered subjective opinions about us. Now imagine that you have to read through piles of written evaluations from the people you’ve taught for an entire semester and saw nearly every single day. It might turn out that the people who’ve been polite to you all season might secretly despise you.
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Now, if you’re a teacher, tutor, professor, or an ambitious PhD candidate, there are some things you should know before reading your student evaluations. First of all, they’re going to be biased. Don’t expect scientific or moral objectivism or any sort of fairness—they’re gonna be personal and they’re gonna hurt.
This leads us to the second point—don’t take any of the comments personally. Be professional. Keep cool. Absorb what’s useful. Discard what’s useless. Improve accordingly. But whatever you do, don’t obsess about the comments and don’t read them over and over and over again.
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Associate Professor of Education at Colorado College Manya Whitaker writes that course evaluations aren’t reliable or relevant but continue to be used in nearly every scholarly institution.
She also suggests that teachers and professors keep in mind that students tend to give lower ratings to required courses as compared to electives. So it’s important to read anonymous evaluations with one eye on the context. And that might make any comparisons between you and house plants sting a bit less.
Here’s how some people reacted to the evaluations. Some even shared their own experiences!