When I first started teaching, I found out that there were a few "rate your professor" websites, and I was on them. I found a few good reviews that were written about me, where students praised me for my patience with them; some of the positive reviews indicated that the students planned to take another class with me.
I noticed one weird trend. On one of the websites, students could also rate their professors' looks with a chili pepper, to indicate that they thought their professors were "hot." I, alas, did not get any chili peppers. Maybe if I bothered to wear makeup or brush my hair most mornings (I usually go for the mad scientist look), I would have gotten at least one chili pepper.
There were, however, several bad reviews that were written about me. That's to be expected, because there are many bad reviews about a lot of professors on those sites. Undergrads who are disgruntled about not getting the grades they wanted can write the nastiest stuff they can come up with (and many of them do) and post it online for everyone to see.
The problem was that some of the stuff that was written about me wasn't true. One student falsely claimed that I was never available for office hours. Other students lied that I graded their papers unfairly and played favorites with certain students.
At the end of each term, the students fill out course evaluations about the classes I teach and about my teaching, which are read by my bosses. I keep their comments in mind and make changes to my syllabus or teaching style. Almost all my reviews from the past several years have been positive.
The online reviews, however, are another story. In both cases, the evaluations are anonymous, but I guess students feel freer to be more candid online. It bothers me that students can post incredibly hostile insults about me that aren't even true, and I can't do anything about it.
The moderators of the sites are undergraduates (or former undergrads) who claim that they're "helping" students decide which professors to avoid and which ones they should take classes with. I think they're helping students who are upset over their grades (or anything else) slander their professors. I also think those moderators know NOTHING about teaching, and they wouldn't survive a week on the other side of the desk.
Several of the schools that I applied to for teaching jobs requested copies of my course evaluations, which I sent. But I heard that some search committees also look at those websites, which worried me.
For a moment, I was tempted to post a few more positive reviews about myself. The thing about those sites is that I can pretend to be a student and post whatever I want. I could have written stuff like, "She's the best teacher EVER! People walk into her classrooms saying, "Please, teach me."
But I didn't. Once, a cashier forgot to charge me for an item that I bought. I brought the item back and paid for it, surprising the cashier. If I can't even lie about a two dollar purchase, there's no way I can lie about my work. I hope that the positive evaluations I sent speak for themselves, and that I won't end up having some kind of breakdown where I reenact the end of every Lifetime movie and start shrieking, "If I can't have this job, NO ONE CAN!" while the members of the search committee run in terror.
I have heard, though, of authors who posted fake positive reviews of their work on Amazon and other websites in attempts to get people to buy their books. I can't help wondering what makes them think that's okay, and if anyone has ever been fooled by those reviews.
What about you? What do you think of those rate your professor websites? Have you ever heard of authors who posted fake reviews?
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