RateMyTeachers.com is a website where you or your kids can go online and, Yelp-like, give scores and leave anonymous comments on middle and high school teachers throughout the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. It bills itself as "the premier online destination for students and parents to connect and share reviews and ratings of middle and high school teachers. Online since 2000, Ratemyteachers.com currently offers over 10 million ratings of over 1 million teachers."
You can search by school, or teacher’s name.
I don’t think teachers like the concept, and they feel it gives people a place to post anonymous and unfair attacks on their performance. Some parents don’t like it either. I’ve had mixed feelings about the concept, especially since I try to be pro teacher and supportive of the hard work they do. I also come from a family of teachers.
I remember back around 2002, a community news website, based in the Bay Area, started a similar online forum on teachers in the public schools in its town. A big fuss was raised, including by local mainstream media columnists. However, the kids in this town loved it, mostly because it gave them a place to post snarky comments about teachers they don’t like.
I was on the site recently, checking out a teacher whom my son, shall we say, has not clicked with. I found about two dozen comments posted about this teacher, some positive, saying “you’ll learn tons,” and some negative and even personal, describing this teacher as "weird." But there were, I must say, some useful comments, in that they described similar complaints to what my son had. Granted, these are anonymous comments posted by middle schoolers. But: 1) I, as you know, don’t have a problem with anonymous comments; and 2) many of the comments, even by middle schoolers or former middle schoolers, were articulate and decent assessments of performance, as opposed to personal attacks.
I started to feel like my son, and, we as his parents, were less alone in whatever concerns we had.
As for a public forum for rating teachers’ performance? Well, over the years, since this Internet thing took off, I’ve had my work published online and with readers’ comments welcomed. I’ve had to read through my share of comments, positive and negative, about my performance on a piece I’ve published. It’s nice to read the positive comments, or to feel like I’ve written something that has sparked a dialogue.
Of course, it's unpleasant to read negative comments, but often these negative comments are instructive. They were when I first started this site. I took many seriously and made changes. Of course, it’s always hard to read personal attacks, and I’ve received a fair number of those. It hurt the first few times I read them. I guess now I’ve grown a thicker skin, and I’m able to shrug some of those off, because, really, some of those personal comments, I’ve realized, can be more about the person commenting than about me or my work.
Of course, I choose to put myself “out there,” on this blog (albeit under a pen name), and when I write for other publications. But teachers are professionals, too, right? With jobs that affect the learning of our children. So, shouldn’t their work be subject to the same sort of scrutiny?
That teacher whose name I searched: I suppose I could have hunted down other parents whose children also have this teacher and see if their children have similar issues. That’s been the way things were done in a pre-Internet age: parents gossiping amongst themselves.
Now I have a more convenient way of getting the low down. Is that a bad thing?
And we plan to talk to this teacher directly and try to figure out what’s going on and if there is a way to work it all out. Is my son being overly sensitive, exaggerating? Or does he have a point? I’m sure the truth lies somewhere in between.