The Night Belongs to Tina Fey!

Illustration for article titled The Night Belongs to Tina Fey!

Last weekend, I went to D.C. for the first time, and was overwhelmed at how much I wanted to do and how little time I had to do it all. YET, I spent almost half an hour in front of a TV screen at the Newseum's "Every Four Years" election-related exhibit watching Tina Fey imitate Sarah Palin on SNL. Even though I had seen all of the skits before — multiple times — I couldn't help it. I just love her so much. (And now I'm doing the same thing again while trying to pick a clip for you guys...shh, don't tell my coworkers!)

So Happy 42nd birthday, Tina Fey: I hope you have an awesome day, and (even though I know you're not actually Liz Lemon) eat a lot of sandwiches. And that all of YOU have a great night!

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Professor Pink

I read this semester's teaching evals today and I need to unload about a few in a relatively safe place (i.e., not Facebook), so aren't you all lucky? For any of you who are college students, here's proof that at least SOME of your teachers read their evals and care very much what you think and say. It drives me crazy that I can't respond to the things students say in their evals, because I so want to!

It amazes me how one or two negative evals (which is usually all I get in a given semester out of over 100 students) will outweigh hundreds (even thousands, in the 10+ years I've been teaching) of positive evals. Because I have more self-confidence as a teacher, I'm better about criticism now than when I started teaching (particularly constructive criticism that I think has merit), but I still find myself dwelling on the bad evals when I get them.

One student said I was a crazy radical liberal who attacked any student who didn't agree with my beliefs, and, y'all, that is SO inaccurate that it's hard for me to understand where it even came from. Like, I really am crazy liberal, but I feel like I bend over backwards to acknowledge my biases and to make the classroom comfortable for people to disagree with me (and interestingly, the student said he/she actually agreed with my beliefs, just not my behavior). I invite disagreement and I am genuinely respectful of differing opinions, and most students who comment on my demeanor say things along those lines, that my classroom is a comfortable place to disagree. I do challenge students with differing opinions, but I invite them to challenge me as well, and I do so without insulting them. I don't know why I can't just let criticisms like this go and say, well, you can't please everyone (especially when you're grading them).

The one that really got me, though, was a student who said I shouldn't share personal information that makes me look bad with the class (which is probably true, but I'm a pretty open person when it comes to my flaws and foibles, and I think it humanizes my teaching). In particular, this student was apparently offended that I shared with my class that I once didn't pay a six-figure hospital bill—he/she went on to say that the high cost of health care is due to people like me who don't pay our bills even though we can afford to. NOW. Some context: This was a relevant anecdote because we were discussing the high cost of health care. I told the students I was hospitalized in 2001 in a trauma ward where the beds were $10k a night, and that my final bill was in the range of six figures. I may not have emphasized this (and obviously I should have) but I did have insurance that paid 80% of the bill, but even the remaining five-figure total was more than I could afford.

As I told the students, I asked the hospital about a payment plan and they said I could opt to pay it off over a year, which still had me owing them monthly payments in the thousands range. I was NOT a professor at the time (another thing I should have emphasized) but a broke grad student, so this was still more than I could afford. Fortunately for me, for whatever reason, the hospital wrote off the rest of my bill. They just stopped sending me bills and calling me. It wasn't sent to collections or anything, it just mysteriously vanished. So, no, I didn't go out of my way to remind them of what I owed them, but I also didn't do anything deceitful or dishonest to avoid making payments. (Actually, even after graduating and working as an instructor, contrary to what the student apparently believes, I *still* couldn't afford a bill of that size—I'm not even paying on my student loans right now and I had to declare bankruptcy a few years ago; a PhD is not a guaranteed money maker, despite what I was led to believe!)

But, yeah. The high cost of health care = ALL MY FAULT.

I don't imagine any of you really care about my hospital bill drama, but it felt so UNJUST for that student to make that comment/complaint on my teaching eval, I just HAD to explain myself *somewhere*. I wish I could tell all of this to the student who wrote the eval, but better this than nothing. I've been perseverating on the thought for hours now and I felt like writing it down somewhere would at least get it out of my head. So now I have.

Any teacher Jezzies want to share about crazy evaluation stories?

ETA: Like I said to my therapist one time: "What do you mean, EVERY PERSON I MEET WON'T LIKE ME?" I seriously identify with Elle Woods: "Everybody likes me!" I really need to get over the fact that, yes, occasionally someone WILL dislike me. Jeez, hard on myself, much?