Friday, December 9, 2011

How do you know? How do you measure?

People often have to listen to me say that teaching at Coker College is the best job I have had in a career that has been filled with job satisfaction, job challenge and job growth. But, a question I often ask myself is how do you know and how do you measure this amorphous quality of "best."

We are ending final exams for the semester on the Coker campus and that may be one thing giving rise to the questions of 'knowing' and 'measuring.' Another reason the questions are there is a quick text message I received from a colleague.

The colleague is one of my senior colleagues -- a person who has been building community at Coker College over a significant career. As I was grading some "news" stories for the WRITING FOR THE MEDIA class I came across a quote that I thought was especially telling. The 'reporter' had written a personality profile about a person looking forward to graduation and reflecting on her college career. The quote that struck me was something like "He is the hardest professor that I have had at Coker, and he is also the best."

A short time after grading that story I saw that professor and shared the quote with him. He thanked me and a few hours later sent me a text-email thanking me again for sharing the story.

But, that short email did much more. It affirmed again the message we share with our students and with our prospective students and their parents -- that no matter how long we have been on this campus, we measure our worth by our interactions with our students. This is a teaching college and a learning community. A part of his message was "...Confirmation for us is compensation. We know none of us is in it for the money. I'm convinced that we get in return what we expect..."

So, one way I know this is the best job I have had in my career is the way I feel when I get such a genuine response from a veteran colleague who continues to "expect" great things from his students and whose students continue to get great teaching from him - class, after class, after class.

And we will continue to study how we know and how we measure what we know because assessment continues to be a crucial way of telling how we are doing.