All posts by Pam Nelson


After reading this week’s suggested writing prompt, I first thought “oh no – I don’t want to analyze my dreams,” but – alas – rather than the subconscious expressions of stress coming to me in sleep, the question asks about goals and wishes for improvement. Maybe one wish should be for positive dreams. But enough silliness.

What’s my dream (at least for work)? I want to be the best teacher I can be and to get to know my students as well as professionally possible. I want to make a difference in the lives of my students that lasts well beyond the time they spend in my classroom. And I think I do that. I appreciate the comments I get personally, on Facebook with the few students I’ve allowed to “friend me” after they were in my class, and on Rate My Professor (see previous post).

But there is always room for improvement. What I feel is lacking right now is the ability and time to innovate and renew my classes and the way I present content. Some of my loss of time and energy is a year of hellish health problems that stole half of last Spring and all of summer from any emotional/energy recuperation but there are also all the stresses and demands of District, Campus and Department issues and my committee commitments. I feel like too much of me is taking care of things outside of the classroom – and the classroom is why I do this job. So my dream is to get back to “being me” health- and energy-wise but also to figure out a better way to manage time so that I’m back to development and my own learning and growth rather than putting out continual fires and just keeping my head above water. The burn out point looms and I want to reroute the train before I reach it.

I know this is more of a personal than professional post, but I thought there might be some broad agreement and/or someone might have suggestions of how they deal with similar emotions/situation. Anyone? And on that note, I hope you’re having a good week (anyway). 🙂



I’m a bit late for last week’s post, but I laughed right out loud when I read the suggested topic for last week as I tried to clear my creativity block.

As many of you know, I’m the campus lead for course-level assessment. I’ve been involved with assessment to various degrees, seeing all the changes that have transpired, for the last 15+ years. What a ride it’s been!

I think our campus has made enormous strides in guiding assessment to a place where it is more relevant and inclusive over the last 2 years, under the direction of Julie Morrison, but there is so much more to do!

Last week, I ran into another example of a faculty member who doesn’t see the merit of documented assessment. I have fought long and hard against the mindset of “it doesn’t matter anyway,” and yet it persists.

The thing is, I *know* that we all assess, practically 100% of the time, with every passing moment of class. The problem is that we have to prove it to “higher powers.” The only way to do this is to document the progress being made. I understand the viewpoint of those who fund colleges (etc) wanting to see progress. Yes, I know it’s nearly insulting to have to prove that we’re helping our students learn and grow as individuals, and that’s the frustrating part. But it is what it is. The sad part is that apparently it won’t “matter” to some people until money gets tied into the equation. And that is where I’ll be most unhappy – if we literally have to prove our “worth.”

I actually find joy in assessing my students, both qualitatively and formally. The reason I teach is to get the “a-ha” or “lightbulb” moments from my students. I just want to show others the joy of that too and to show those “others” out there how AWESOME we really are!!


RMP – Not just a Fad

YEARS ago, some brilliant mind designed an app called Rate My Professor. At the time, I thought “Oh – this is just a fad. It’ll go away.” And at the start that’s what it looked like. There were only the few students that posted and – much like an Amazon product rating – they were the people who LOVED the class or HATED the class. No in between.

On the upside, there used to be a “hot pepper” for teachers who the student(s) thought was cute. I got a hot pepper back in the day. You couldn’t see who it was from and it was a fun thing – admittedly mildly inappropriate – but fun.

Fast forward to now. I ask my students why they chose the class and/or why they chose me instead of my 3 colleagues that teach the same 101 class. Nearly invariably it is either “My friend took your class and recommended you” (My favorite!!!) or “You’re rated excellent on Rate My Professor.” So, yes, it’s a big deal. It helps both my and the school’s reputation and makes a difference in who students choose.

I have co-workers who refuse to look at RMP at all saying they “don’t want to know,” but I think it’s a great way to get a feel for how you’re being perceived. Now, I’m not saying you should change your teaching to get a “good rating,” but it’s pretty awesome if you do get a great rating for doing what you love in the way you do it. It’s that kind of feedback and evaluation that keeps me going. I love what I do, and I love that the students love it (and me – grin!) too.

And on that note, have a great Spring Break and check out RMP if you haven’t!



And check out Heather Merrill, Julie Waskow & Ernie Brings who rate 5.0 at the top of our school!


Feedback frenzy

On two occasions recently, I was delayed in grading and returning papers & projects to my students. My usual policy is to return their quizzes, exams, etc at the next class period and/or posting them to Canvas by that time. This time it took me about a week in one case and an extra class period (2 days) in the second case. For the first, I actually sent a Canvas message to the class telling them not to stalk Canvas for their grade. For the second, I apologized in class.

As a student, it annoyed me to no end to wait interminably for review or grading of my work. I had put in a ton of work to make my submission as perfect as possible (heavily salted with perfectionism and “OCD”), and then I had to wait and see the teacher’s/professor’s response, so I prioritized this as one of the things I would always do: give prompt feedback on a regular basis.

That all said, both “apologies” started a flurry of verbal and email responses resembling – “No need to apologize. I’m still waiting for something I turned in on-line 3 weeks ago.” or “Do you realize how much in the minority you are in caring about getting our grades back so soon?” and “Thank you for warning me that I didn’t need to hover over the computer – you’re usually so fast that I literally refresh for hours after the test!”

It made me feel great that I was making them happy and keeping them relatively sane in a stressful college environment. Even if their grades weren’t what they hoped they’d be, they were still grateful to get that information ASAP. I was surprised and a little sad to hear prompt feedback isn’t a common practice. But on the other hand it was nice to hear how awesome I am. 🙂

[And that’s why my post is later than it should be. My post lost to finishing grading and going to 2000 meetings this week. LOL] . Have a great weekend!