At the end of each semester, we faculty give out teaching evaluations to our students. Some pupils may think this is a waste of time and that we teachers don’t pay attention to their feedback.
But we do.
I dread doing this, because I never know what I’m going to find.
My scores are usually okay. But inevitably, there are a couple of students who just hate me. This is common for most teachers.
You’d think it is correlated with bad grades, and it might be. The evaluations are anonymous, so there’s no way for us faculty to know who is critiquing us or what their grade was (which might tip off who gave us the evaluation).
Some people think I am entertaining and helpful. Some think I suck as a human being. How can people have such varying views of me?
Anyone involved in some aspect of public life, whether they are preachers, teachers, politicians, actors, administrators, or whatever, know this is true. You can’t make everyone happy, no matter how hard you try. My hypothesis is that it comes down to how your personality, comments, behavior, humor, and demeanor and all the other traits that make you unique resonate with others. Each person has a different filter. You may seem caring to one person and a flipping butthole to another.
It could be a word that you say. It could be how someone interprets a comment you make, thinking it was intended for them when it wasn’t. A failure to notice a look of confusion or a simple mistaken name might do it. Or you might say something that seems politically charged when no innuendo was meant.
What to do? Well, you can’t be perfect, but there are ways to ensure that you are getting through as many filters as possible in the best light.
Listen and be aware. Realize that most people just want to be heard and respected.
Try to communicate concisely. Be sure to explain to the best of your ability what you are doing and why you are doing it. People may not agree with you. But at least they know that you are giving them consideration.
Show empathy. Try to put yourself in the shoes of your students. It was a long time ago. But remember how unsure the future felt at that time and how insecure you were. Now realize that everyone feels that way, no matter what age they are.
Be proactive. If a student is struggling, approach them. Don’t wait for them to come to you.
Don’t dictate. Professors like to lecture. This comes off as condescending and unfeeling. A conversation is necessary, no matter how inefficient it feels in the classroom.
Be kind. Enough said.
This list, of course, doesn’t just apply to teaching. Any level of leadership requires these lessons. You may still not make sense and people may disagree with you, but you’ll keep their respect.
Unless their filter is clogged.