Tip 33: Remember Who the Criticisms are About

Often students will complain about us, in the halls and in the classroom. “She’s too hard.” Or “We have to write EVERY class period.”

Often the criticisms are actually about the students, since they don’t want to study, or about colleagues, since they don’t require the same level of work.

If your students are making progress in your classes, then maybe it’s not all about you, even when they say it is.

Also encourage the students to think of the positive things that have been done in the classroom. “We learned how to do X. When you get to class Y, you will already know how to do X by yourself. So when the instructor says, ‘Go do X’ you will be able to!”

When you have students who are saying nice things about you or the class, note them. Write them down. For most people it takes TEN good things to overcome a single criticism. That means you will need a record of the ten good things.

Also, if you write them down, including the date and who said them and under what circumstance, you may be able to use them in your tenure review. Some colleges let you do that. Just make sure you keep it up. You don’t want two comments only. And you certainly don’t want to make that stuff up.

One thing I’ve begun trying to do more is ask the students to tell me what I am doing well. I explain that I revise the syllabus every semester and I would like their input on what they don’t want me to change, what they found helpful. I actually use these to decide what to leave out and what to keep and I let them know that, too.

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