Saturday, March 17, 2007

How friendly should I be with my students?

Feelin' a little homesick, so here a photo from my stompin' grounds

Teaching evaluations mean life or death at a small liberal arts college. And since I have not started my new position yet, I still have the chance to nip foolish mistakes in the bud, as for example becoming too friendly with your students. I am currently a visiting assistant professor and I have been experiencing the following dilemma:

If you are friends with students - not outside the school environment - but simply listen to their relationship, financial, family, etc. problems and you sincerely care for them and they get a good grade in your class, they love you, and as a result give you the highest evaluations. However, if they don't do well on your exams, they take it a little too personally, suddenly give you the cold shoulder and finally slaughter you on evaluations. And it is a dilemma, because I find that I have more in common with those undergraduate students than the close to retirement colleague. And it doesn't require much to become friendly. It only takes a music CD on my office desk as the catalyst for a conversation.

In the end, I think that it is difficult to hide who you are for six years. So perhaps my precautions will eventually fail no matter how carefully I plan not to make mistakes.

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