Talk to Your Kids About Rating Teachers

Dec 21, 2016

We’ve all been there: that one teacher that we thought was really unfair. In the past, kids would complain to parents, friends and maybe even other staff members at school. A few students might try to get even with a teacher, but often that would cause enough trouble to stop the issue.

Today, however, kids can do great harm to a teacher, thanks to both social media and a site called Rate My Teacher. This website allows people to anonymously rate teachers on a scale of 1 to 5 and add comments.

According to the site’s frequently asked questions (FAQs), over 65% of the ratings of teachers are positive. However, that still leaves a negative rate of nearly 35%. Here are five problems this teacher rating website can cause:

  1. While the site has guidelines about commenting, it does not allow anyone to remove a negative or false review from someone else. In fact, if guidelines have been violated, it may take time to get the negative review pulled down.
  2. The site is set up to protect Rate My Teacher from any legal liability whatsoever, leaving teachers with little to no recourse over false or damaging reviews.
  3. Comments can stir up negative or false impressions about a teacher, even from those who have not yet had any experience with that teacher.
  4. The site has led to in increase in cyber-bullying of teachers, which can have just as damaging effects as bullying in person.
  5. Comments about the site indicated that some schools use this rating tool as part of a teacher’s official review, putting a teacher’s career at risk.

What’s really disturbing is that most of Rate My Teacher’s FAQ page is set up to discourage teachers from taking any actions whatsoever in their defense other than responding to comments. Not only that, but students can also take to social media, damaging a teacher’s reputation online by further sharing their negative teacher ratings.

Parents must teach their children to manage their disappointment at a teacher in a reasonable way. While tools like Rate My Teacher and social media provide kids the opportunity to express what they feel they can’t in class, they also promote habits that can be dangerous such as cyber-bullying. Our children also need to know that when they become adults, such actions can cost them a job or even harassment charges in the workplace.

This is an excellent moment to teach your children how to behave in the world. Talk to them about handling disappointing or “unfair” teachers in a proper manner:

  1. If your child complains about a teacher, ask him about the problem in detail. It may not be anything worse than unwanted homework or a challenging assignment.
  2. Ask him how would he feel if someone were talking negatively about him without identifying himself. What if he were powerless to delete someone’s mean or false comments?
  3. Teach your child that there is a difference between class expectations and a teacher doing something improperly. He cannot expect to like every teacher or course that he is required to take.
  4. Investigate his complaints to see what they involve and if they are valid. Did the teacher request something outside the expectations that were set? Did the teacher say or do something improper? Have other students made this same complaint?
  5. If this might be a mistake or miscommunication, meet with the teacher to hear her side of the story, and consider if you need to take further action.
  6. If your child’s complaints fall outside the sphere of proper teacher conduct, take action with the teacher’s superiors or the school board within the school’s policies. You can show your child how an adult handles situations like these, if he is old enough to understand.
  7. Talk to your child about the damage that cyberbullying can do. He may think he is doing something “everyone does” without realizing the harm it can cause. Look into installing a parental control software that will send you alerts when hate speech or cyberbullying is detected so you can have a proactive discussion with your child.

Using a teacher rating website or social media to vent about “unfair” teachers is unfair to them, too. Real world communication and engaging with those we don’t agree with are helpful skills your child needs to grow into a successful student and competent adult. Don’t miss this opportunity to teach them the right way to go about it.