Thursday, December 18, 2014

have I fucked myself?

Some coworkers overheard me speak of my plan to give out the students' final grades during the final day of class, and they collectively said, "I wouldn't do that if I were you." Like my supervisor at my previous job—a man who was cautious, private, and circumspect by nature—they worried that, in giving the students their grades now, I'd be shooting myself in the foot when it came time for evaluations. I shrugged and said I'd be continuing with my plan because "more communication is better than less." One of my current supervisors replied, "That would be true if you were dealing with rational adults, but these kids all want an 'A.'"

I agree that the kids all want an "A," but I suspect that, even if they haven't checked their grades, many of them are instinctively aware of whether they'll be receiving "A"s or "B"s or something lower. True, young people are experts in the art of self-delusion, and kids the world over walk around with an over-exaggerated sense of entitlement, feeling they "deserve" a higher grade than whatever they get. (As Clint Eastwood's William Munny said in "Unforgiven": "Deserve's got nothing to do with it.") Still, I discovered today that most of my kids weren't all that surprised at their final grades. They still enjoyed themselves during today's jjong-parties, and my advanced students even took the time to shake my hand before leaving the class for the last time. One of my intermediate students texted me, saying, "You have a great passion for teaching."

So have I fucked myself? Maybe. I suppose I'd been hoping for that brass ring, the one that comes from getting a 99% average on the evals. But I'm pretty sure that wouldn't have been in the cards even if I had chosen not to reveal the students' grades early. I may have guaranteed myself a lower eval score, but it won't be lower by much, I'm pretty sure.

The breakdown for my intermediates today: 4 "A"s, 11 "B"s, and 4 "C"s.
For my advanced students: 6 "A"s, 5 "B"s, and 1 "C."

Two more parties to go, then I'll be spending the weekend, and possibly Monday, finalizing everything that needs to be finalized. After that I'm home free, and for the next two months I can fantasize about what I'd do and where I'd go if I had a million bucks.

ADDENDUM: The Golden Goose is giving me the day off on Christmas Eve, but I've got to come in to the office on New Year's Eve. Such is the price I pay to earn extra moolah. We're all whores about something.



John (I'm not a robot) said...

When I read the first post about you giving grades early it occurred to me you might indeed be fucking yourself. Then I thought, ah, what the hell do I know about it?

The concept of "more communication is better than less" certainly has it's appeal, but in practice I'd say weighing the consequences of robust communication is also prudent. During a performance review should I tell my boss "I'm sorry I missed that deadline" (less communication) or "yeah, I missed that deadline because I was coming off a three day drunken bender" (more communication)?

Anyway, I'm sure you'll do fine. But if you are going to be evaluated in comparison to the scores of your peers, then you've basically created an uneven playing field. You chose principle over self-interest and I can respect that. But respect don't pay the bills...

Kevin Kim said...

True enough. There are times the answer to "does my ass look fat" is a prudent silence or an outright lie.

My problem is that I don't buy into a certain aspect of Korean culture—the aspect that says communication is best kept indirect and sneaky. Of course, Koreans themselves can be extremely rude, blunt, and undiplomatic despite this tendency toward indirectness, but they still have problems handling the truth.

I tried to head things off a bit by writing a few eval-related maxims on the whiteboard:

1. Be honest. (i.e., don't manufacture complaints out of a need for "revenge" for getting a "B")

2. If the teacher never heard the complaint during the semester, DON'T WRITE IT ON THE EVAL. (i.e., you should have complained well before now if you had something to say)

3. Remember that, in 10 years, none of this will matter. (a bit of wisdom given to me by a priest at Catholic University, DC, when I was stressing over my comprehensive-exam results)

Will that be enough to buoy my numbers? Probably not, but I suppose we'll see. Koreans can also be fatalistic about their grades, so if a students discovers he got a "C," he may sigh and think a "C" is condign, just what he deserved. I'm banking on there being many such students.

Charles said...

Call me a cynic, but I wonder how much of an effect your "eval-related maxims" will have. The students who were going to give you good evals will give you good evals anyway; but will the maxims be enough to sway those who were going to shank you?

Of course, there's no way to know for sure. I suppose it can't hurt--unless you've got students so petty that they would shank you in retaliation for advising them on how to fill out the evals.

Kevin Kim said...


Yeah, my feeling is pretty much "what will be will be." Makes little difference either way. In fact, I just spoke with a colleague who's got the same attitude I do: he also lets his students know their grades right away. His take: earlier knowledge has done little to nothing to affect his evals. He also say: if you're into teaching just for the evals, you probably shouldn't be a teacher. Fair point.