There are about 3.7 million full-time teachers hard at work in classrooms in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Each and every one of these teachers has a difficult day-to-day task list involving a combination of instruction, daycare and discipline. It's hard work, and most teachers love it.
But now, there's a new threat out there that can make teaching even more difficult. And it's something that many teachers might be ill-prepared to combat.
Review Sites: The New Threat
It's become vogue to write reviews for everyday transactions. We're all used to writing Yelp reviews for excellent service, or Amazon.com rants about terrible products. We all seem to feel the need to share stories about our experiences with anyone and everyone who will listen.
Until recently, teachers have been immune to this sort of problem. Most kids seemed to understand that teachers did the best they could, and that poor teacher performance was due to something the teacher couldn't control, like an unruly student or a crowded classroom. Most kids took up their issues with the teacher, or they asked their parents to do so.
Now there's a whole field of websites out there, just waiting to pounce on teachers. I'll give you a few examples.
RateMyTeachers.com is made for high school and college students, and it's active throughout the United States. Students can use a quick search tool to find a teacher, and when they do, they can rank the teacher by all sorts of metrics. Ease of the class, exam difficulty, clarity, it's all here. And then students can use a free-form box to type up notes. They're not required to log in, so it's hard for teachers to know where the attacks are coming from. And the anonymity might make students feel compelled to be just a little more cruel than they might be if they thought they might get found out.
RateMyProfessors.com is a little different, as it's made just for the college market. Again, students can rank a teacher on all sorts of different areas of performance, including clarity and helpfulness. And students can write free-form comments anonymously, so those mean bits of content might still be a problem. But the one shining moment here comes in the course code. Students must include a specific class course code or their comments won't count. That might weed out some frauds, but I'm not 100 percent sure about that.
The last example I'll share with you might also be the most alarming.
It's TeacherComplaints.com, and it's made specifically for families with a bone to pick with a professor. There are no compliments here (hence the name), just ranting and raving. And there's a lot of it about. Students don't rank a professor by performance as much as tell nasty stories about something awful the professor did on a specific day. Really angry students could write up a review every single day. And the comments can be made anonymously.
Why They Matter
There are all sorts of different ways to deal with these complaint sites, and I've seen many teachers that seem to find the whole thing amusing instead of alarming. (There are scores of videos like this, for example, in which teachers read mean reviews on camera and laugh about them.) But in reality, these things can be really dangerous.
These sites are designed to do well on Google. Why? Because each name a user types in is attached to a specific geographic location and a school. That means a search for "teacher name + school name + location" is just destined to bring back these review sites. That's how the data is entered.
And the job market for teachers isn't limitless. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that job growth for teachers is moving at a slower-than-average pace. If you're attacked on a review, your school could choose not to renew your contract. The student's complaint (even if it's not valid) could seem true, and that could cost you a job. And once that job is gone, it could be harder to replace, since there are fewer jobs out there.
And should you look for a job? A Google search will bring those old reviews right back up. That means future employers might not hire you, either.
What Can You Do?
Fighting back against an attack like this is really hard. You can't track down who wrote the comments, because the sites don't require users to log in. That means the sites might not even know who wrote these things. It can all be hidden.
And if you stand up in front of your class to do a little accusing, you could be in a lot of hot water. That's just not the way things are done in most schools, and it's not a smart idea.
But we can help. In fact, we're offering a new service that can sweep through the internet and delete the data that could be harming your reputation. We'd love to chat with you about your teacher reviews and get you started on something better. Contact us to talk about what we can do for you.