Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Two student emails reassure me that I am doing ok

Ed Koch, when he was the mayor of New York City, famously walked around asking people, "how am I doing?"  Almost every class, I pretty much ask myself the same question.  Sometimes, I venture to ask students, too.

The formal institution-level evaluation and feedback process is notoriously meaningless at practically every university.  Ours is no exception, which is why I pay only the barely needed bureaucratic attention to it.  Instead, I truly watch out for, and value, the spontaneous feedback I get from students.

Two emails from students this term are even more meaningful because I am on sabbatical and not even on campus.  The following email is from "W," who was in one of my classes a year ago, where one of the readings I had for them was about the Applie iPhone and Foxconn, which has been in the news a lot recently.  "W" writes:
I was in your global trade class last spring and that Foxconn article reminded me of our many discussions -- thought you might be interested. ... It has been fascinating to see all the articles in the news recently -- and empowering to actually have an informed opinion.
Pretty neat, to get such a feedback.  Education is about knowing more about the world around us and then to develop informed opinions.  Mission accomplished with this student, at least.

In a lengthy email from "T" were the following sentences:
if you wanted to teach ****** again in the next four terms you should let me know so I can take your class! You are a favorite in our nerdy community and I know others would surely want to join as well and I think you get a lot of liberty with the curriculum so if you wanted to teach a class that let you'd have some freedom it'd be great.
"T" and "W" have provided answers to the question I always have in mind: "how am I doing?"  I am all set for another year, at least.  Thanks to them.

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