This year I am a general assistant to the Grad Director, meaning I don’t have the opportunity to teach my own class. Luckily I’ve been invited to give guest lectures in classes ranging from Media and Society to Human Sexuality. Interacting with different students from different departments has been invigorating. So invigorating in fact that I have changed up my lecturing style.
I experimented on my first class last week. I asked them to do some free-style writing about how pornography in general made them feel. Then they talked in small groups. And then something magical happened. They talked. Almost the whole class from that moment on seemed engaged in the wider conversation. They pushed back with hard questions I had answers to and they asked a few questions that I hadn’t even begun to think about. It was the type of class that makes you want to claim and intellectual victory. Today, we learned something.
At the end of class, I asked them to do something I don’t normally solicit; I asked for feedback. I asked them what they liked, didn’t like, how they would change the lecture, and what arguments I made that they weren’t buying. Usually I don’t ask for feedback because often classrooms can be shallow and, let’s be honest, negative comments can do more damage than good sometimes. My experience over the years though has been to attempt to use feedback to improve the way I teach. This class though instead of the usual shallow complaints, filled their feedback with more questions they had, insisted that they wanted to go deeper and learn more. It was beautiful.
But more than that, I have to admit, that a few of their comments validated me as a teacher. They insisted that even though I could be a little too animated and excitable, they loved who I was and how I taught. Many called me passionate, funny and enjoyable. This one feedback that came to me in hot pink ink though, particularly impacted me. It read “Never change.” And while I can be certain that I just as much as this student will inevitably change as we are humans and that is what humans do, I think the sentiment was more “Don’t change for anyone else because you are teaching us valuable things.” The sentiment was that they have seen teachers grow weary of teaching, get dulled down and eventually stop talking over-excitedly too quickly about the rapid growth of anal sex in pornography. They want excited. They want honest. They want hot pink ink.
Although I know I will not always get positive feedback and I know my worth as a teacher cannot lay in the feedback from students, today this little piece of positive validation was what I need to continue down this sometimes obstacle filled path.
I’ve pinned the hot pink eval on my bulletin board as a reminder that sometimes I get it right.