A couple of weeks after the end of my first semester of teaching as the instructor of record, I received "the packet" in my campus mailbox — an interoffice envelope stuffed with course evaluations from my students. Those evaluations mattered a lot to me at the time, as I was still figuring out this whole teaching thing. Was I doing a good job? Did my students like the class?
And, more selfishly, did they like me?
Well, in this particular batch, one student certainly did not like either the course or me. In the comments section, the student flatly declared: "He was a real ashole."
The spelling in that quote is sic. In that moment — as I wrestled with both the shame of being
deemed an "ashole" and the urge to laugh at the absurdity of that being the sum total of this
student’s assessment — I had my first experience with a question that faculty members