Being Kind to Ourselves

It never fails. Even in the most positive, self-affirming situations, I manage to find self-doubt and insecurity. It happened again today. I was reviewing feedback on my teaching provided through student opinion surveys. Instead of focusing on and giving myself a proverbial pat on the back, I was stewing over the one student’s responses that showed I was less than wonderful as a professor.

My first thought was to justify the response. I’m sure the student made a mistake with the Likert-type scale, confusing the strongly agree side with the strongly disagree side. Or maybe it is this student’s personal philosophy that a neutral three is always going to be the response. When I realized how ridiculous that reaction was, I resorted to a bit of anger. After all, I can’t always be perfect. And maybe that student was just having a bad day and decided to take it out on my evaluation.

The truth of the matter is that I was once again approaching this all wrong. Of course it’s important to acknowledge that a student had a less than positive experience in my class during this semester. More importantly 17 other students in the same graduate course had a very positive experience.

Perhaps you are like me, focusing on the one negative instead of all the positives. I invite you to experiment with me. Think of five really good things that happened to you today or in the last couple of days. They don’t have to be big things. The significance is in how you felt. You filed a report that has been sitting on your desktop for a while? Didn’t that feel good? You had a real conversation with your teenager this morning? That had to raise your spirits.

It would be great if we could be kinder to ourselves. I plan to make a point of this in the coming week. My sincere apologies to the student who had a disappointing experience in my course this semester. My eternal gratitude to those students who felt I shared in their educational experience in a positive way. It was truly my pleasure.

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