Tuesday, October 31, 2006
An interesting development in school sites caught my eye after I read in The Sunday Herald how schools are banning student access to RatemyTeachers. A quick trawl through the (largely illiterate) comments on the page devoted to my former place of employment showed that while the medium may change, the content does not. As far as I could see, this was the usual stuff, writ not large but potentially widely. But who will read it? Other kids in that school? A few. Their parents? Fewer still. Future employers of the staff concerned? Well, they might, I suppose - but I would hope that they would take the info with a pretty big dose of salt. Who will post? The usual suspects.
OK - I'm not involved. I don't work there any more, and as far as I can see there is only one (very positive) comment about another retired colleague. But did I listen to what pupils thought of me and my colleagues while I was in the classroom? Occasionally you'd get a misguided child attempting to tell you something unpleasant that a wee friend had said, but it's a foolish teacher who pays much heed to that kind of stuff - or indeed goes so far as to encourage it.
But it happens. All the time. You can't stop it because it's part of school life. One of the problems about using computers at all in school is keeping the kids on track, and that doesn't involve writing comments on teachers - just as when I was at school one was discouraged from filling up the boring moments by writing scurrilous notes to a pal on the other side of the room. Or - as I did, every year - writing a colour-coded key to the efficacy and likeability of my teachers for that session. I don't think there's much to be said for banning access; that merely gets the school's name added to the "Wall of Shame".
And another thought: when you live and teach in the same smallish community, you are never under the illusion that you're not discussed. You are assailed by parents in the Co-op; sometimes they phone you at home; on at least one occasion a disgruntled but misinformed parent even turned up in the dark of a November evening on our doorstep. Everyone over the age of eleven knows who you are and has an opinion of your worth - and talks about you loudly in public when the mood takes him/her. Websites? Nae bother.
But I'm out of it, and you can shout me down. Comments, please, in this public space!