Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Stifling comment

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!


  1. And that, dear Chris, is why I will never teach and live in a small community. Funny you should write something about this. I was in Sommerfield on Saturday (last minute costume additions) and was met with three or four parents who proceeded to tell me their life story since I left the town. I don't even know them and yet they seemed to know everything about me. Hmm. Something tells me that "Mr. Duffy" will be around for a wee while longer!

    On the subject of rating teachers - I would hope I deserved a smiley face with the sun-glasses next to my name. At uni we can 'rate our professors!' Noone does this, unless someone has gained access to someones matric number and are passing off as a student.

  2. Anonymous9:01 AM

    Hi Chris,
    From my experience, RMT seems to go in waves. We get a flurry of interest in it, then the pupils forget about it. 6 months later, it resurfaces...

    I just view it as a bit of fun... but then I've got shades! ;0)

  3. Perhaps it's better that such nonsense should languish in a corner of the hinternet than be carved into desks. It does seem a rather updated version of this - the posts I read were in essence graffitti, hardly of consequence in the modern cut and thrust world of catchment areas and 2.4 children, as any fule kno

  4. I don't think it's really ever bothered me Chris. Having lived and taught in our wee community for about twenty-two years now I'm sort of used to knowing I'm known by a hell of a lot of people who have all sorts of opinions of me.

    I've had the same experiences as you in this respect and do you know something? I wouldn't change it! I disagree with you Duffy - sorry - but I think teaching and living in the community is actually more rewarding. Outside school - at the sailing club for example - the kids address me on first name terms, at school they revert very easily to Mr. McLean and on the whole deal with it really well. It can strengthen your relationship with the kids in school. You're a real person not just someone who appears for about fifty minutes in class.

    Good lord - I think I've just said I'm happy in teaching. :)

    p.s. I've never actually been on the site. Probably don't even rate a mention!

  5. I was just talking about this the other day. One of the teachers I was with wanted it banned and one didn't. My take was much the same as yours - children have always done it and will continue to do it whether or not you ban the site. In my day it was badly typed and even more badly photocopied "newsletters" that did the rounds. As far as I remember, they said stuff that was worse than anything I saw on my quick read of Rate My Teacher.

    Only thing I would say however is that there are better things you could do with school ICT equipment so banning it for it's time wasting potential might be worth it. I suspect though that a smart English teacher could exploit the creative writing potential - give a memorable character sketch with an incredibly small number of words. :-)

  6. "give a memorable character sketch with an incredibly small number of words."

    Mmm. A challenge. One I may take up when I've had a minuite or two!

  7. A memorable character sketch in a small number of words - no problems!

    "Christine McIntosh - English Teacher" :)