Helpless no more: Rate those teachers

Marsha Sutton
Marsha Sutton

By Marsha Sutton

Now that one-quarter of the school year has passed, parents and students are quite familiar with their teachers and know who’s good, bad, average or outstanding.

In most cases, it doesn’t actually take one-fourth of the school year to find out. If the teachers have been employed for at least a few years, almost everyone knows before school starts. Teachers know who in their own ranks is stellar and who is weak. And students certainly know by talking to other students.

Parents by now can recognize their kids’ groans when they see their schedules and teachers. Because reputations are widely known, schools got wise and many don’t reveal the names of the teachers until the first day of classes. Having to deal with all the requests for schedule changes because students got the “bad” or the “hard” teacher became overwhelming.

The obvious solution is to fire the “bad” teachers. But since union rules make this next to impossible, we as consumers are left with few options. We can write letters, meet with administrators, or ask for conferences. These options may work if the parent can make a convincing case that the “chemistry” between one particular teacher and one particular student is all wrong. But for most parents of unlucky students who get the short straw, it’s a frustrating process.

Parents whose kids struggle through a full year with a mediocre teacher may breathe a sigh of relief at the end of the school year, grateful the ordeal is over. The inclination is to put the whole dreadful experience behind them and move on. Since their kids are finished with those teachers, many figure there’s no point in complaining. Or even praising for that matter. Your kids won’t have those teachers again, so why should you bother voicing your opinion?

Well, you should, because other kids will have those teachers next year and the year after. And if administrators don’t get feedback from students and parents in real time, how do they know what’s going right and what’s going wrong?

Granted, there isn’t a whole lot administrators can do with teachers of poor quality, given all the protections teachers have. Unless they commit some sort of heinous crime, teachers with tenure really can’t be fired. But there are things that can be done, once administrators are made aware of problems.

RateMyTeachers.com

is one way to make yourself heard without exposing your or your child’s identity, or risking retribution.

The infamous R-word, retribution, is what keeps so many parents silently fuming, bottling up feelings of helplessness and frustration. This site gives the silent majority a way to express their views without fear of harmful repercussions against their kids.

Students have used the site for years. One might think that only negative comments are posted, but that’s not necessarily the case. True, many grumble about impossible instructors and warn future students to beware of teachers’ particular quirks, habits, preferences and styles.

But surprisingly, many of the comments and ratings are positive. Students often elaborate about outstanding teachers and provide hints and tips on how to get along with the difficult ones.

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