RE: Online Course Evaluations

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“What great dialogues we’ve had on e-mail, cell phone, text messages, Facebook, and Twitter—uv taut me tns!! ☺”

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From: Pearce, Michael
To: Students of Eng 232-764
RE: Course Evaluations On-Line

Dear Students:

As you surely know by now, the College has gone to a new online course evaluation system. Let me just say: I’m so sorry. Not only do you get the daily reminders cluttering up your inbox, but now you also have to take time outside of class during the busiest part of your semester to fill out your evaluations. Please don’t hold it against me—I swear it wasn’t my idea!

I did want to assure you, however, that these evaluations aren’t just busy work. In fact, for someone like me, who goes up for tenure next year, you might say your evaluations will be my primary job assessment. Or, to put it in other words, your evaluations matter very much to my family and me. (You may remember my daughters from the video I showed in class: Maddie, 3, little towhead always in pigtails; Emma, 4, freckle-face who calls me “Paw Paw,” and has the chronic asthma that makes us so grateful for the College’s excellent health insurance. I’m sorry I haven’t shared any photos of my wife, but she doesn’t like to have her picture taken since the accident.)

And as much as these new online evaluations are a total pain in the rear , they may actually work to your benefit. You can now do your teacher evaluation immediately upon getting back a paper, while the feeling is still fresh. Or if, say, a professor is too uptight about a student reading every page of the assigned reading or occasionally texting in class, you don’t have to worry that you’ll forget about it by the time the evaluations are handed out. You can fill them out on your iPhone or BlackBerry the second you leave class… or even before, if you’re sly enough and don’t sit in the front row.

With this in mind, I wanted to expand on the grades that accompany my helpful feedback on all written assignments. A capital A underlined three times is the same as me throwing up my hands and shouting, “I’m not qualified to evaluate your paper!” Think about this: Even though I spent eight years at one of the best graduate programs in the country, you’ve surpassed me on your first read (or partial read)—wow, it’s impressive, and I’m grateful just to have been given the opportunity to read your work. Thank you!

An A underlined twice means that this is a publishable paper, plain and simple. Let’s brainstorm at your convenience, and I’ll give you my contacts in academic publishing—if you’re interested, that is, I respect how busy you are and don’t want to add to your many responsibilities. (Of course the thrice-underlined A-papers are publishable too—but, frankly, you deserve a wider audience than my academic contacts will give you access to.)

An A underlined once means your paper just needs a little fine tuning to be publishable—give me a call on my cell, and we’ll get it in shape. An A not underlined just means, as the college handbook says, “outstanding.” You’re outstanding!

Some of you received an occasional A-minus on papers. I like to think of an A-minus as my grade of encouragement: You’re almost there; you can do it! In a way, it’s not fair to you, because this grade usually means you’re not quite living up to your potential—and let’s face it, that’s kind of like punishing you for being so smart in the first place.

You should be even more proud of your grades because compared to other classes, this course was extremely challenging. I mean, would I really have had to remove two books from my syllabus with clearly stated objectives halfway through the semester otherwise?

I especially want to commend all of you for taking advantage of all the ways I’ve been available to students outside of class. What great dialogues we’ve had on e-mail, cell phone, through the course blog, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace! And often in so few words! Needless to say, Uv taut me tns!! (I do apologize for the five-day mid-semester lapse in tweets, and again, I’m very grateful to all of you who pointed out that I could access the wi-fi from my daughter’s hospital room.)

I’m very sorry for having written such a long missive (letter). As if you had the time right now to read all the way through a letter this long from your professor! I’m especially conscious of this because I totally respect students’ time. Mostly, I just wanted to say thank you for a great semester.

Your friend,
Michael (Professor Pearce)

P.S. Remember: I’m available any time to write letters of recommendation. You were all in the top 5%. Just let me know!

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Rumpus original art by Ian Huebert.


Daniel Stolar is the author of the short story collection The Middle of the Night. His fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in a number of literary magazines. He teaches at DePaul University in Chicago, where he lives with his wife and two daughters. More from this author →