Friday, January 27, 2012

Hamstrung


Hamstrung.

I saw it on a blog this week and realized that’s exactly what I am.

Hamstrung.

Do you know it? Have you been there?

Crippled?

I’ve been hamstrung this semester, and I can’t seem to get out of it. I’ll peek just over the cliff, ready to jump, be free, and then I retreat back to the safety of what I know.

Last semester I felt like I was flying. I was exactly where God wanted me to be, and I knew it. I’m still where God wants me to be, but I’m not sure I’m holding on to it like I should.

Why this fear? Why this doubt?

Student evaluations.

I know. Stupid, right? How could I let a bunch of college freshmen diminish my confidence and my calling?

It wasn’t even a bunch. It was, like, two.

I got my evaluations from last semester via an Excel spreadsheet the week before classes were to begin this semester. Stupidly, I opened them. That was my first mistake. Then I read them. Might have been my second mistake. And then I took them to heart. My third and biggest mistake.

Most of my evaluations were great. I think my students see me as a kind person who really cares about their wellbeing and success. Most of my students gave me “average” to “above average” marks.

But the one or two that were “below average” are the ones that stick with me. And the comments. Whew! As a “words of affirmation” person, the positive comments mean the world, but the negative comments cut straight through.

“The best thing about this class?” “It’s DONE!”

Ouch.

“How would you describe this class?” “Boring.”

Excuse me while I go bleed.

And now I feel hamstrung because I really can’t get rid of the negativity. I walk into class every day and think, “Who’s the one who’s going to think I’m boring this semester?”

Seriously! I’m a head case!

When I read the evaluations over break, my sweet daughter was still home from college and she gave me this advice: “Mom, delete them from your computer and don’t read them again.”

Someone else observed that the male teachers probably don’t even read the evaluations at all, but the female teachers take them much too seriously. That may be true, I have no idea, but all I know is that my heart has been broken. 

Hamstrung.

I know I need to move on. I need to heal this wound. I know I need to focus on the students God has given me this semester because I know there are needs there, just waiting to be revealed, and students who need me to care about them. And I do. Very much.

I need to remember that I’m a good teacher. I know I am. Is every class a hit-it-out-of-the-ballpark class? Um, no. Some days I’m tired. Some days the material just IS boring, but we have to get through it. Some days I have no idea how to present, so I just do the best I can. But for the most part, I know my subject, and I think I do a pretty good job.

What I really need to remember most of all is that I am exactly where God has placed me for right now. And I need to move forward, jumping over that cliff, with confidence. Because without it, I’m going to be pretty ineffective this semester.

I’m guessing that hamstrung people are just that—ineffective.

So today I’m going to do something I haven’t done yet: I’m going to delete those evaluations from my computer. I’m going to pray over them and let them go. And I’m going to ask God to give me the confidence to go into the classroom doing my best work, loving my students, and fulfilling the call He has given to me.

Why is this so hard?

Q4U: What diminishes your confidence in the call God has given you? What stands in your way of doing your best work today?



Shelly

13 comments:

  1. Do your work heartily for an audience of one -- the One who called you to the work in the first place. His evaluation is the only one that matters.

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  2. I SO understand that. That must be really hard for you.

    So here's my evaluation for you:

    You are a BRILLIANT teacher, encouraging, kind and thought-provoking. Thank you!

    Sarahx

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  3. Boring people are constantly bored. Don't take it personally.

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  4. Interesting
    Inspiring
    Kind
    Caring
    Hard working
    Godly
    Leader
    Fun
    .......etc

    There's a more accurate evaluation. Period.
    KB :)

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  5. Besides remembering that you are exactly where God wants you, remember also that there will always be 1 or 2 students that don't get excited about your class. Not because of you, but because they just don't love every class every semester and some required classes are ones they would prefer to skip altogether. (*secret* - I was one of those....I'd have skipped English entirely if I could - I was not creative, couldn't write to save my life (Piro would agree) and would rather be in Chemistry or Int. Relations). But I would TOTALLY take your class! :)

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  6. You are all just a wonderful shot in the arm. Thank you!

    P.S. I DID delete the evaluations from my computer. Moving on . . .

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  7. I can so understand. So glad you deleted them - now you have to be good about telling satan to stop whispering in your ear so once you have determined if there are any changes you SHOULD make, you can "delete" those from your mind too.

    From your past posts, it seems that that are some kids that you are really touching and making a difference to and for, and that is why you are there. Don't let ones you are not there for discourage you from being there for the ones you are there for.

    There is a Bill Cosby quote that I really like and have posted on my desk for when I'm feeling discouraged.

    "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."

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  8. Weavermom, that's an AWESOME quote! (And some good advice, too.) Thank you!

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  9. Ok, really just delete them, but if you need to analyze think that most folks are glad that a class is done. It means they've competed something and can move on to the next goal. So I think you can totally ignore the student that said "Done!". That leaves you boring - which is one student. Who probably didn't do too well in your class, and is probably meant for other things. He/She just says boring - no other explanation - is it the topic or the teacher? Nothing. You don't know. So it's not personal. If it were personal they would have said "boring teacher". Instead they're lazy, uninterested in school, and will one day wish they'd paid attention. Again, nothing against you. So get back in the swing of things - you rocked the semester, you touched a lot of people, and those two - aberrations, just blips on the radar.

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  10. I thrive on verbal affirmation, too. I totally get how you feel.

    One thing I always try to remember is that I may do things 100% correctly, and people still may not like me. (People didn't like Jesus and He was God...seriously, that's really nutty when you think about it.)

    Also, I try to remember that other really, really good and effective writers/teachers/preachers/ministers are just not my cup of tea. Doesn't make them bad or wrong. Just not my taste. I know many NY Times best selling authors whose writings bore me to tears. Some bloggers who have hundreds of thousands of followers who I have "unsubscribed" to, cuz I just can't get into their stuff.

    So, consider that in every crowd, there's going to be a small percentage of people who just won't "get" your style or who will relate well with someone totally different from you. Nothing wrong with that, really, when you think about it.

    That said, I want everyone in the whole wide world to love me and then TELL me they love me. So, I would have bawled my eyes out with those few bad evals.

    Oh, how I love your heart. And your writing.

    blessings,
    Sandy

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  11. I taught one whole semester of fundamentals of speech ten years ago. And I still feel the sting of my student evaluations.

    But you ARE an awesome teacher. I don't doubt it for a second!!

    As for what diminishes my confidence, it's remembering past failures that does me in!

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  12. "Boring" and "It's Done", Shelly, is that all...? I thought there was going to be something truly that cut like a knife, like: "If the teacher could only truly write and speak in complete sentences" or " I learned absolutely nothing in this class". Even if you are an off the charts fabuloso teacher, at least one or probably three students will find the class boring. Kids and adults that are in a class that they don't particularly care for possibly because it is difficult or they don't do well in the subject will be glad it is done at the end. You should be rejoicing you only got two negative, actually pretty neutral comments. SILLY YOU. You good teacher you. PS I am coming to Wheaton Feb 24-27 and hope to see you. COLETTE

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