Had a bad day at work? Has a colleague annoyed you? If so, why not write a review about them and vent, anonymously, your feelings online? No? I’m glad to hear it, but that’s just how one website does work – Rate My Teachers. This website offers students and parents the opportunity to reflect and provide feedback on teachers in their school. On the face of it, I agree that it sounds like a good idea, an opportunity for prospective and current parents to find out exactly what students/parents think of a school and its staff. However, having recently re-visited the site it doesn’t take long to see that is more of a haven for unadulterated venom rather than a place for balanced views and opinions of teachers. I quickly signed-up to be the ‘moderator’ for my school thinking that I could filter out the obvious trolling of some staff, delete feedback for staff who had left and remove some of the more grotesque comments. Much to my surprise, the moderator has very little influence or editing rights. That is, unless you become complicit in the murky world of teacher feedback yourself…
Upon agreeing to be a moderator, one of my first tasks was to approve or decline some recent feedback for teachers in other schools (schools that I do not have any connection with). Here are the first four that I was confronted with:
“This woman is a callous bully, a control freak of the very worse kind, with no sense of compassion or fairness. It is a disgrace that she was ever put in any position of power, which she regularly abuses. As far as I can tell she is thoroughly abhorred by the pupils, the teachers and the parents alike, yet she intimidates people into silence. I can only express my dismay that this nasty bully manages to keep her job.”
“The nastiest piece of work you could ever encounter”
“[The Headteacher] doesn’t care who she hires as long as they obey her regime”
“The worst person i have ever shared a classroom with…could not complete a lesson without incident and cost many people passing grades in various subjects. So glad to see the back of her.”
How could I possibly approve any of these comments, particularly as I do not know any of the staff that they are referring to? However, I cannot reject them either as none of the comments, rather surprisingly, break any of the Rate My Teachers rules. Here’s the conundrum – until a moderator approves or rejects 100 comments they are unable to make any changes to the listings at their school. Even when the moderator has approved/rejected 100 comments, they cannot change any already approved comments. How can I look my colleagues in the eye when I’ve just approved a comment which says that there are, for example, a “thick idiot” or an “incompetent teacher”? I am simply not prepared to become complicit in the approval of comments which are often tasteless, insensitive, inaccurate and seemingly written in a state of frenetic vexation.
Students are in contact with teachers a lot. It is therefore inevitable, despite our attempts to avoid it, that every single teacher will annoy a student at some stage in the day/week/month/year. Students of High School age often don’t know how to deal with their emotions so a quick diatribe on Rate My Teachers can often seem, to them, a good place to vent their anger. And why not? It’s anonymous, you don’t need to login and you can make a permanent blot on a teachers reputation in just a few clicks; instant satisfaction! With more and more schools now allowing students to use mobile phones and/or laptops in schools, the comments can be written at any time of day. According to Rate My Teachers, 65% of the comments on their website are positive. I challenge you to find these 65%. It’s very clear that the vast majority of comments are unpleasant. Then again, there are some teachers who are rigging the results themselves. I personally applaud these teachers who are giving each other false feedback to bump-up their ratings. Of course, such manipulation of the scores means that Rate My Teachers becomes an even more unreliable place to obtain satisfaction scores of teachers.
Rate My Teachers is not a new site, I suspect that if you’re a teacher reading this you’ve probably visited the site previously. In fact, a BBC News article from 2006 reported the concerns of teachers and how the site has just become a playground to bully teachers. Ten years later we’re still having the same conversation and Rate My Teachers are just as unrepentant in their work. A look through their FAQ’s for Teachers & Professors shows that they will not remove comments, are not worried about teachers suing them (my favourite line being “If you want to drag us into court, bring your checkbook with you, because you’ll be paying our attorneys to defend us”) and are simply not interested in hearing from teachers, even if comments seem to have affected their reputation or even career.
I am keen that teachers are rated by parents and students but such a survey needs to be completed in a fair and honest way. The headteacher in this 2013 article from The Telegraph goes some way to showing how this could be achieved. For the moment, Rate My Teachers does nothing to help prospective parents or students to find out more about a school. All users should be aware that comments are usually written by angry students who need a quick fix relief from their annoyance at a teacher. In the meantime, I’ll be handing in my moderator role as it clearly has no effect on the legitimacy of the site and I do not wish to be complicit with the cesspit of hate that the site attracts.
What are your thoughts on Rate My Teachers? Have you received feedback that has affected you or have you been pleasantly surprised by the feedback you’ve received? If you’ve any comments, please ‘join the discussion’ below.