RateMyProfessor, RateMyStudents

It’s pretty common knowledge that I teach freshmen composition at a local university. As much as I love my job, it’s the kind of work you carry around with you. It’s the kind of job you can’t really go home from–particularly since I encourage my students to reach out by email any time. Last night, not for the first time, I dreamt of work. This time, however, it had nothing to do with lectures or grading and everything to do with how instructors and students perceive one another–and how they act on those perceptions sometimes to the detriment of both.

More specifically, I dreamt of RateMyProfessor.com and how things would be if there were, say, a RateMyStudents.com, too. Everyone knows that RateMyProfessor.com is a website where students are able to anonymously rate their instructors on factors like helpfulness, clarity, and easiness–and, sadly, hotness–to derive an overall score.  In general it’s highly problematic and, in most cases, laughably bad. In my opinion, it also undermines the academic environment when instructors are being rated based upon such factors as easiness and hotness.

First-Papers

In my dream, though, there existed a world where the opposite were possible. Could you imagine what would happen if there were a website where instructors could rate students anonymously? Where we could type in a students name by university and rate them on factors like attendance, professionalism, responsibility, attitude, and engagement? Where instructors could leave comments about student behavior, the outrageous things they said, their utter lack of respect for the class, the outpouring of excuses, how they spent the class period texting, taking pictures of the slides rather than taking notes, talking and/or going to sleep? Or the opposite, of course, when students are engaged in the process and deserve positive feedback. Imagine, then, that professionals hiring in the real world used this website to gauge job prospects based upon student performance in college? It would be the worlds most honest letter of recommendation when instructors were honest about the student’s capabilities and willingness to learn.

It certainly doesn’t seem fair, does it? Yet this is exactly what’s happening with ratings websites where instructors are being selected for classes based on student ratings. In this case, the student is the hiring professional from the scenario above. Instructors are being (often unfairly) judged by the opinions of disgruntled students. That isn’t to say that all of the negative opinions are wrong, but only that they should be taken with a grain of salt.

Most disappointing of all, recourse does exist. Instructors are able to rebut a students claimsbut can you see any way to do that without it coming across poorly? I can’t. In my dream, though, it was the students who came across like sour grapes trying to refute the claims of anonymous professors. It was the students trying to figure out which of their instructors left them the negative feedback and prove why they’re wrong to make negative claims about their performance. It was the students trying to battle against instructor credibility and losing. It was complete unethical chaos, much like the the total unethical chaos that currently exists with the arbitrary RateMyProfessor.com system.

The differences between my dream and the real world? In the real world a system that allowed students to be rated would never happen. It would violate the plethora of laws protecting students. Laws like the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that makes sharing student information rightly illegal. In the real world no such laws protect instructors and professors from sometimes libelous accusations that instructors who “gave” students a bad grade are, therefore, bad at their jobs. Pity that there isn’t more recourse for instructors than the ability to stand out there on the virtual sidewalk beside mountains of potentially negative student feedback with a sign that says “nu uh.”

Complicated Good News…

I so rarely have good news to share that when I do I tend to put it off. Maybe I’m waiting for the other (inevitable) shoe to drop, but I tend to be skeptical of good things happening to us. This is where the pessimist comes in and when you hear our current good news, and the catch, you’ll see why.

The Good: Matt got a promotion!!  He’s been working for the same company for the last 26 months–though he’s only officially been an employee for about 23 months (his first three months there were temp work). A lot of hard work has earned him the opportunity to move up into a management position. He has already begun the training.

The Catch: His promotion means that in six months we may have to move. The terms of his promotion are such that he must diligently apply for every single open management position within the company in the US (and possibly internationally) until he gets one. If he doesn’t immediately get one, then he can stay in his currently location until he does, as long as he’s continually looking.

This means several things for me, foremost that I may not be able to attend more than one semester of doctoral work at TWU before we have to move–which means looking for another program at another school. It also means I’ll have to give up my job, which I love, and that if he moves mid-semester I’ll have to stay behind until the semester ends–whether that semester is Fall 2014 or Spring 2015. It also means we could end up in California, Arizona, Utah, Missouri, Wisconsin, or a handful of other states where his company has facilities, we don’t know.

At this point, his job is the most important thing, though. We’re at the point where career > continuing education, even if my chosen career field requires that I get more education before I’ll be able to find a good job. I can always look for another program, but there’s no guarantee that I’d be admitted. Also, he may have to move every few years to keep advancing, which presents further complications.

So you can see, at least a little bit, why good news isn’t always something I’m willing to discuss. It seems like there’s always a catch that makes one of us a casualty. That said, this is a pretty big deal and we’re both really excited about what it might mean for us in the near future–even if we’re moving at Christmastime. This is the way marriages work, compromises must happen for both people to succeed and, hopefully, as my mother is fond of saying, everything will come out in the wash.

This Isn’t the Matthew You’re Looking for…

About three years ago Matt and I switched from T-Mobile to AT&T for our cell service. When we got our new numbers Matt happened to get the a number that had previously belonged to another guy named Matthew. Okay, no problem right? Except that it has been a constant nuisance and he refuses to change his phone number because of the hassle it would cause with work, friends, and family. From my perspective, this is sheer stupidity. Here’s why…

JensenAckles GIF

Immediately after getting the number he began getting lewd texts from sexting services. Not just one or two texts, but dozens of them a day. These texts were seriously nasty stuff, with very graphic details about what they were offering. Seriously gross, but he ignored it assuming they would go away when they realized he wasn’t interested.

Six months went by and those sexting texts turned into billing from said sexting company because, apparently the asshat who had the number before him didn’t pay them for previously rendered services. The lewd, graphic texts turned into threatening, angry texts. Apparently, those companies are like angry pimps when they don’t get their money. Still gross.

Meanwhile he started getting phone calls and voicemail for jobs for this Matthew guy. Apparently, someone wanted to hire him for some sort of engineering-type job. At least we think so, the woman calling was foreign and we couldn’t always understand her. Matt told her repeatedly that he was not the Matthew she was looking for, but she persisted until he stopped answering the calls completely. For a job recruiter, this woman was seriously pushy.

Then the bill collectors started calling. Matt told a lot of them he wasn’t, in fact, Matthew Garrett and that they needed to stop calling him. Some did, others didn’t. We’ve been ignoring it and laughing it off, but this last weekend he go on the phone with a woman who was so condescending–I mean so, so condescending–that she outright refused to believe Matt wasn’t this other Matthew guy. It went a little something like this…

Collector: Matthew?
Matt: Yes?
Collector: I’m calling you regarding a debt for [very large sum] that is owed to Capital One.
Matt: Um, huh? No I don’t.
Collector: It’s from 2003, you’ll need to pay or we’re going to sue you.
Matt: Who are you trying to reach?
Collector: Matthew G-A-R-R-E-T-T.
Matt: That’s not me, different Matthew.
Collector: Social Security Number ending in [numbers]?
Matt: No.
Collector: Address [street address]?
Matt: No again.
Collector: We’re going to sue you if you don’t pay. The federal law… [blah, blah, blah]
Matt: Wait, I am not the guy you’re looking for.
Collector: Then you’re refusing to pay this debt, Mr. Garrett?
Matt: Um no, you’re talking to the wrong guy.
Collector: Okay, sir (super condescending disbelief), I’m going to note in your file that you said that.
Matt: You do that.

This woman outright refused to believe that Matt wasn’t this other guy. This is the first time that’s happened, most of them are at least willing to take him at his word, and I think it was partially that Matt answered to Matthew at the beginning of the call. But, um, his name is Matthew! This woman gave us that guys last known address and the last four digits of his SSN. That’s bad business bordering on criminal. If I could remember what company she was from I’d call them and file a complaint. Give the wrong person that information and you’ve just aided in identity theft. Though, if I had to say, I don’t think anyone would want this guy’s identity.

All of this and Matt still won’t change his number. I tried again to get him to change it, but he says it would cause too many conflicts. While it would certainly be a pain in the neck, I feel like it would be worth it. Oh, did I mention he’s constantly getting text updates from this other Matthew’s dentist? He also got a call from a doctor looking for the other guy. I honestly think he’s beginning to get some perverse enjoyment out of the whole thing. Me? I would have been at my wits end with this other guy pervy, jobless, internet-shopping, indebted minutiae a long time ago. We have enough problems without fielding calls for some creep who used to have Matt’s phone number–especially when those calls are threatening or condescending.

I seriously hope either this other Matthew or all the jerks trying to reach him for money or text-sex get a freaking clue. Otherwise, I may just change Matt’s phone number against his will, seeing how the account is in my name. ;)

ShelterBox

My husband, Matt, is currently enrolled in a project management class for his MS in Leadership and Management. As a part of the project, they’re working as a team to earn money for a worthy charity. His charity is ShelterBox, an amazing charity that turns donations into lifesaving shelter and supplies for disaster survivors.
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Matt’s goal is to earn $500 by the middle of April. Please consider helping by donating to his cause or sharing with your friends, or both. Not only is it important for his success in this class, but will more importantly help an amazing organization bring lifesaving supplies to those who need them most. Follow this link, or the one above, and click Give Now link at the top right-hand side of the page.

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!