That is my evaluation. My teaching evaluation for 4 sections of strategy. In this popularity context, I am an almost-4 out of 5. That’s good. That’s great. I’m safe. No longer in the at-risk-of-being-asked-to-take-pedagogy-classes category of loser-teachers, the ones talked about with sighs and head shakes – she’s-great-but-can-sometimes-be-hard-to-get-along-with. Thank God I’m no longer in this talked-about set. It can beat you down, this exposure and this number, so clean and stark like a blade…a 2 out of 5- God! people must really hate you, you unlikable bitch.
I dare you to be a woman, an Asian woman to boot, and survive intact with a 2 out of 5 on likeability; anything is preferable, I’d even prefer ‘slut’ to ‘unlikeable.’ Last year by chance, an admin-glitch, students evaluated me before I taught the class, and guess what these numbers were – 3.5/5. The average teaching evaluations in the department are 3.00 – so Yes! On average, students prefer our absence to our presence.
“Why this number, ‘Quality of professor?’” you may ask. It seems perverse. Why not what they actually learned, why not a pre and post-test to see if they learned something from class; it’s simple enough to do online. I don’t know why. It is just not done. Meyer and Rowan say that it is ceremony and myth – all of academia – assessment decoupled from practice. It makes sense then why things are so difficult for me here – if the primary aim is ceremony and legitimation, then a skinny brown Indian woman, in need of legitimation herself, is not the best person for the job.
After 5 years in the trenches of clawing my way up from 3.2 to 4.01, I’ve finally lost all the idealistic nonsense that filled my head about this job being one where I can REALLY-MAKE-A-DIFFERENCE. 90% of the class cannot survive 5 minutes without checking their phones. Plus, these are the clear-eyed practical ones who chose business as their major, they understand how the world works a lot better than I do, and aren’t here wanting for me to REALLY-MAKE-A-DIFFERENCE in their lives. They are the customer and what they want is good packaging and paiysa-vasool.
Maybe there is some point to teaching something else, things like physics or math or gender studies….but what is the point in teaching business? – it seems more efficient just to have extremely selective criteria (so you weed out based on certain types of IQ and on class and generational wealth), charge high fees (to make doubly sure of the weeding), get people to spend time together (so they get a network of other-people-like-them) and then give them the stamp of a big-10 school. Why go through all this trouble – like in INSEAD, a colleague, another PhD, a woman, an assistant professor teaching strategy, went through the usual hazing process, and in her class, a student walked out and then walked back in naked. Students who can make a teacher cry win the weekly betting pool – it is all in fun of course, and is meant for bonding, a noble goal.
On my good days, I give myself pep-talks – “Don’t think on the 70 cell-phone obsessed zombies in your class; Instead meditate on that one girl who was mostly silent in class, but turned in the most brilliant memo with hours of additional analysis, and then came to office-hours and asked the best questions and showed you how she put together all the data she collected. Think on her. Don’t be discouraged by the students who showed up to 2 out of 4 sessions, turned in a crappy memo with nice graphics and a whole lot of talk about brand image, and then emailed you demanding why they haven’t got an ‘A.’ Instead remember the Indian girl who came to you on the first class as if she’d just sighted a unicorn; delight and thoughts clear on her face – “My God – are you real? You are the business strategy teacher?!” I remind myself to stingy-store away these incidents, to take out and look at and admire and remind myself that there is some larger purpose to all this pain.
On my bad-days, the days when persistent magical thinking (example, the world is really a fair place and good things happen to those who work hard, or content really is what ultimately matters) clears, I instead remember the fruitless-pointless hours improving content. I remember snippets of wisdom that white men with teaching awards sometimes slip up and reveal: “teach right after a 2/5 – you’ll look good in comparison,” “teach the internationals, the Chinese are the best, Spaniards, Indians, anyone but the French for whom no one is more than a pas mal 3”, “never show vulnerability,” “answer questions with many words (it doesn’t matter which)”, “don’t provide grades/feedback until you’ve been evaluated,” “end class early,” and the best-one-yet, “show them who’s boss – tell them they are stupid if they make a stupid comment.” These words were perhaps well-meaning but make me feel foolish and don’t help – a brown woman who says nothing and tells people they’re stupid?! – I’m not into professional suicide, at least not yet.