OK, so they came and I looked. I seem to have escaped the falling sword, at least this time around; most of the evals were fine and the ones from the Shakespeare course, which I was the one I was most worried about, were positively glowing.
Curiously, the lowest ratings came from the 11 a.m. section of Brit Lit II -- the class that I had personally enjoyed the most and thought went the most smoothly. Three or four students said they thought I was pitching the class toward the English majors too much and ignoring the non-majors. (Hmm, maybe that's because the English majors are the ones who talk and ask questions and seem engaged? You think?) Anyway, I'm not sure what to do with this, especially since the 8 a.m. students -- almost all non-majors -- seemed to have no such complaints.
As per usual, there were a handful of comments about how I was too nervous and fidgety and moved around the room too much and it was distracting. One student expressed the opinion that I might have a disability. Harrumph. Another one -- referring to me by last name only -- wrote something along the lines of "Porpentine does not know how to relate to her students. She kept telling us about things* that she said were only studied on the graduate level. WE DO NOT CARE." Somehow, I don't think my chair will take this as the damning indictment it was evidently intended to be. And there were the usual demands for PowerPoint, and complaints that I asked open-ended questions and wouldn't just tell them the answers, none of which really bothers me.
More worrisome, I think, is the fact that the one question on which I seem to be getting consistently low ratings is "This instructor conducted class in a way that stimulated interest." After three semesters, it's clear that this is a pattern and not a fluke, but I'm not sure what I can do about it, short of getting a personality transplant. I mean, I do show images and video clips, and they say they like that; they say I'm enthusiastic and they like that; and nobody has given me any concrete suggestions about how to be less boring, other than not telling them about stuff they DO NOT CARE about. Blah.
Oh well. I don't think I'm going to get fired for being boring, so it's all good.
* Incidentally, I have absolutely no idea what these "things" might be. I do remember saying something like "Nobody reads the Parson's Tale except grad students because it's a really long sermon on the Seven Deadly Sins," but we did read the Parson's Prologue, so it's not like it wasn't relevant. Other than that, I haven't a clue. Honestly, I think this is the real reason why course evals bother me as a general concept; so many of the comments bear no obvious relationship to anything I remember saying or doing, so it's hard to know what to make of them.
ETA: Please note that I'm dwelling on a handful of negative comments because they tend to loom large in my own head -- this was an overwhelmingly positive set of evals, and I'm not sure they can be improved all that much while still holding students to reasonable standards of college-level work. I thought of deleting this post when I read it over this morning and realized how negative it sounded, but I don't like to delete posts.