Yesterday I got my course evaluations from last term. They came bundled together in four neatly stapled stacks, one for each course. Even though the Education Director told me they were “lovely,” I was apprehensive as I started to read them. It was a fragile week, with my tutoring hours being cut and the true realization that I needed to do something to build my practice, or face difficult financial decisions. I didn’t trust the positive feedback. Long habits of waiting for the bite after the compliment die hard.
As I read through page after page of comments, I realized that no bite was coming. The worst I could expect was a push — a loving push in the direction of being a better instructor. I laughed out loud often, and found myself touching my heart to say “thank you,” as I do often in class. Each neatly stapled stack had its own personality. I could which class it was without looking at the labels on the forms.
My girls, who I’ve written about before, used words like “compassion” and “caring” and “patient.” I read in their comments references to our heart to heart talk. I saw that their experience of that day was exactly what I hoped.
For two classes, I had the same group. A lively, funny, almost ideal community who embraced the whole shared experience part of massage school. Their comments were hilarious. They referenced some of the my quirks and invented rituals — like the Story Time Chair (for sharing my experiences) and Massage Therapy Theatre (not role play. Because we’re classy.)
The largest group was also my biggest challenge. They were young and rowdy, unused to self-discipline. I ran a tight ship in that class, too tight even for me at times. Many of their comments showed that they liked the strict discipline. My favorite was the student who wrote that the favorite thing about me as an instructor was my “bossiness.”
After I read through all of them, I went to teach that night’s Ethics class. A new group for me. I hadn’t met any of the students before the term started a couple weeks ago. I am still learning how to work best with them. Teaching them that night felt like walking through mud pits. Just one more step. Then one more. Somehow we would get through. And we did — barely. I walked to my train in the bitter cold, exhausted from a roller coaster day. I had a stack of lovely comments from former students back at work, but I knew my focus should be forward, with this new group who still aren’t sure what they think of me. We have things to learn and material to cover. Now, the evaluations go back in a drawer for a quieter day.