Appreciation for readers’ support

Nicole Guttermuth

Nicole Guttermuth

A New Day

By Nicole Guttermuth

During my tenure as an English lecturer at Clemson, each semester we were required to collect student evaluations of our performances.

Distribution of evaluation forms always took place at the tail end of the semester, so it made for a good half-class kind of day leading into exam week, which worked out perfectly — especially during spring semesters when my students started wearing less and less clothing in preparation for sunbathing or Frisbee games on Bowman Field.

Weeks after leaving that envelope full of evaluations with one trustworthy student in each class who was responsible for handing out the blank forms, collecting the completed ones and turning them in to the department office on the sixth floor of Strode Tower, I would check my mailbox with anticipation of seeing those large brown envelopes begging to be read.

I typically taught four courses — two freshman writing and two sophomore literature — which meant anywhere from 110-125 student evaluations, give or take a few.

Before I ever opened and read them, I would remind myself not to take the mean-spirited evaluations personally, because the fact of the matter is when students do poorly, they tend to be angry. Instead of being angry with themselves, or accepting personal responsibility for, say, not doing their assignments or showing up for class (mentally and physically), their bitterness was usually projected onto me — their course instructor.

Constructive criticism I can handle; not only can I cope with being evaluated, I welcome it!

How else could I possibly grow if someone with another perspective didn’t point out areas where I might benefit from more education or trying out a different methodology or practice for conveying information?

There is, however, a difference between constructive criticism and flat-out insult for the purpose of being hurtful.

As a writer for the Courier, I’ve encountered my fair share of less-than-constructive criticism. I’m “thin-skinned” and sensitive, so despite Rocky or Zack telling me to let it roll off like water on a duck’s back, the words might stick with me for a while like the soreness of a sunburn.

Here is the other side of that coin, and the reason I chose this topic for my column: in the last few months, I have received the most heart-warming letters, gifts and words from several of our readers offering me sincere kudos for my work as a writer.

Balancing two jobs and two kids during the summer has prevented me from being able to make the time I would like to personally address and thank each individual whose kindness and compliments have made me feel great about myself and what I do; for this I apologize and hope that my words here will let you (and you know who you are) know how much I sincerely appreciate your gestures.

Writing has always been a labor of love. It isn’t a job I do for the paycheck or for recognition. I believe that God has given me a gift for word construction and I write as a way of thanking Him for this blessing He has given. I write because I love people and being able to make connections with others.

For those of you who have personally encouraged me to continue writing, who urge me forward with the most lovely compliments, gestures and tokens of appreciation, I simply want to say thank you, thank you, thank you! It makes me feel amazing to know that you enjoy what or how I write.

I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from The Alchemist: “It is we who nourish the Soul of the World, and the world we live in will be either better or worse, depending on whether be become better or worse. And that’s where the power of love comes in. Because when we love, we always strive to become better than we are.”

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and opinions and for making me continually strive to be better.