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International Name Calling

Some teachers in Australia want to sue and shut down a site that allows students to give them ratings and post comments about their work.

The only problem is, the site (the article doesn’t name it but it’s probably RateMyTeacher) is based in the United States.

Some examples of the comments that have school staff calling in the lawyers.

One Sydney principal, who is given a score of 1.7 out of five for “overall quality”, is described as rude, condescending, pompous and arrogant.

“Who could allow someone like her to run a school? … [she] is a terrible principal. She is a bully who does not care about the students or the school’s wellbeing, but rather how they appear to the outside world.”

One maths teacher at a Sydney school is described as being unable to control a class or spell.

“He can’t teach at all and going to his class is like having an unofficial free period. He can’t control the class to save his life and his teaching is repetitive and boring. Yet he labours on and you have to wonder why.”

The government has, of course, blocked access to the site in schools but the local teachers union still wants to take legal action against “scurrilous American websites”.

None of this is very nice for the educators involved, of course, but does any of that rise to the level of “defamation”? Maybe the remarks made by the students should trigger some reflection of their own practice.

And wouldn’t this be a great teaching opportunity to discuss with students the responsibility that goes with freedom of speech, especially online?

australia, ratemyteacher, defamation

2 Comments

  1. Kelly Christopherson

    As someone who has had the “oh so positive rating” it becomes necessary to see whether there are nuggets of truth in the comments. Now, if it is just ranting students, oh well. But, if it is disturbing people because there are grains of truth, then it is time to be professional, do some reflection and begin the learning process. Given the profession we are in, there will be students/parents who do not like us and are not positive about what we do. However, as professionals, we need to listen to their voices, maybe more closely than the one’s that praise. I’ve begun to thank people for their criticisms as it does help me and it sure throws them off. Especially when you ask them for specifics!

  2. kelly

    People in the blogosphere have written about this site before, and I’m really on the fence about it. On the one hand, I think good teachers solicit feedback from their students and aren’t afraid of it – and give the kids some credit: they, of all people, are in a position to judge! And in my experience the vast majority of kids will critique fairly and honestly. What concerns me is the behavior of kids (people!) in groups. I’ve seen what happens when groups of kids team up to pick on a teacher or another student, and it’s not pleasant. I think the nature of a “rate my teacher” type site is to draw kids in who are really, really upset at their teacher, and because it’s an on-line thing, to tell all their friends and to egg each other on to make worse and worse comments. And it is public. That said, there will probably still be some truth to what the kids are saying, and perhaps the teacher could have nipped the problem in the bud by asking for feedback within the classroom context (I have given little surveys to my students every year).

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