In the short time before classes begin I have begun my now semi-annual tradition of recalibrating and revising the syllabus for the course that I will teach in the coming semester. While the core components of the course remain the same each time the course is taught it seems that the way those core components are disseminated and recollected changes ever so slightly. The reason for these changes has very little to do with me and everything to do with the students.
During each semester I am evaluated as an instructor at least twice. The first time is typically an evaluation by another instructor at the university who sits in on a class, takes notes, and helps me better understand strengths and weaknesses as well as suggesting areas for improvement. While this evaluation is helpful it turns out the the second evaluation generates the most changes to the syllabus. The second evaluation is, of course, at the end of the semester when I am evaluated by my students. More than anything else their comments about the course and their low or high marks in different areas help to shape what the course will be as the years go by.
So, as I sit here putting the changes into a verbal form in the official document for next semesters’ students I would like to thank all of the students who took the time to fill out their evaluations. I’d like to thank them for improving the course for the students who will take the class this semester and I’d like to thank them for making me a better teacher. So don’t feel like your voice isn’t heard. If a class is bad, an assignment worthless, a entire category left out, or anything else please know that I’m listening. And if I’m listening then there are other teachers who are listening too.