I just got what is without question — and by an astronomical degree — the WORST set of teaching evaluations I’ve ever gotten. These come from my graduate cultural studies seminar, which I will here admit I totally phoned in all semester. The overload was simply too much, and I found myself repeatedly putting that class last, as I think any reasonable person in my situation would have. (And no fair responding that any reasonable person wouldn’t have taken on the overload. You’d certainly be right, but there’s no point harping on it.) My students picked that up, and really slaughtered me.
I’m alternating between two responses here, one which is a little bruised and one which is a bit more indignant. The latter response comes from my sense, given the comments, that this seminar expected to be taught in a way that graduate seminars simply aren’t, and that some measure of my hands-off approach (admittedly too hands-off) was intentional, designed to force the students to develop their own responses to the material.
But whatever. I forgot the third response, in which I can’t quite bring myself to care very much. My relationship with the grad school is a pretty exploitative one (them of me, not me of them), and if they decided not to ask me to teach for them any more, it would come as a huge relief. Perhaps there are moments when doing a bad job is called for.