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‘School Hard’

“Grade 9,” by the Barenaked Ladies, is a song that was released in the early 1990s and is all about first impressions and the crazy whirlwind that is high school.

Sure, we’re all past this grade, but we still have moments or days like these. The ones described in the song like the feelings of not belonging or preferring the anti-social TV marathon to a party.

The music of the song is upbeat and a bit chaotic, as are the lyrical themes. This makes sense since it’s all about figuring out high school for the first time: a confusing, chaotic period of our lives. Although the song is meant as a comedic stance on school, it does point out the insecurities of being new anywhere and the anxieties about fitting in. There are also a ton of geeky references to the ‘70s and ‘80s, mainly because the band is made up of Canadian nerds, whom I love deeply for their music and sense of humor.

On another school-related note, Susan Horne, visiting assistant professor of decision sciences and one of my favorite, most challenging math instructors (business stats), found out that, due to course evaluations, her contract as a teacher wouldn’t be renewed for next year. She’s fighting it, but in the meantime, here are some things she had to say about the evaluations process and her experiences with it:

“I received no negative feedback from anyone at [Paul College] until I began to be very active in the Lecturers’ Union and Council. The dean said she looked back three years and read every single comment made in that time,” Horne said. “All the research I have read on use of evaluations in the way they were used against me points to improper use. I was ranked against other lecturers in Paul including those who teach non-quantitative courses. This shows a flawed approach. As I pointed out to the dean, math anxiety plays into my evaluations, but there is no such thing as marketing anxiety or management anxiety. I realize many students are intimidated by the subject, and I work very hard to explain things in several ways. Based on feedback from other students, in many classes in Paul students do virtually nothing and get an A.”

To prove her teaching methods are valid, she said, “I did a pretest at the beginning of the current semester asking 115 QDM students to find mean, median, mode, sample variance and sample standard deviation for four numbers as well as when and with whom they took Business Stats. My Stats students scored consistently higher than all other instructors. The dean was livid that I had done so because it refuted her claim that my teaching is of ‘poor quality.’”

She also has asked former students for their aid in her appeal.

“I have collected commitments from many students to write letters insisting that high standards be maintained and that challenging courses remain too,” she added.

When it comes down to it, she is very frustrated by her situation, “The dean refused to provide specifics [of how bad the review was], instead referring to the fact that all numbers on the evaluations are taken into consideration, as well as all comments,” Horne said. “Based on meeting with dean last week, [evaluations] are 100 percent of the decision [for hiring, promoting, etc].” Thus students should take them just as seriously as university administration.

So whether you’re jamming to the funny song discussed above or filling out a routine evaluation form, remember that what you say and do does make a difference—even in your school.

Gabrielle Lamontagne is a junior majoring in French and business administration.


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