When A Professor’s Son Discovers RateMyProfessor.com

When A Professor’s Son Discovers RateMyProfessor.com May 19, 2015

I had an interesting experience today. My son, who is in high school, told me that he had looked me up on RateMyProfessor.com.

I’m sure a worried look crossed my face, but I tried my best to retain my composure. Not a lot of students have commented about me and my classes there. But as is often the case, of the few who have done so, most were complaining about something.

Apparently RateMyProfessor.com had been mentioned on Reddit today, and anything that is featured prominently on Reddit, my son spots – almost but not quite always before I do.

As the conversation progressed, I found myself really impressed by his thoughts regarding the comments about my classes that he saw there.

One student had written, “I would advise not taking his class because he can’t keep the class discussion going.” Another complained, “He wasn’t good at stimulating conversation.” My son, despite being several years away from university, was astonished by the comments. How, he asked, can students have the audacity to blame the professor for something that is the responsibility of the students themselves?

A conversation that began with fear and trepidation on my part ended with a sense of satisfaction.

He had a favorite comment about me from the site, and it was this one:

jolly leprechaun

Having been reminded about it, I am seriously tempted to make it my Facebook banner. I can live with being described as a jolly leprechaun – especially by someone who appreciates meaningful discussions about the spirituality and philosophy of science fiction, and who is capable of spelling leprechaun correctly to boot! 🙂

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  • Just Sayin’

    I don’t understand why there is a need for “class discussions” in the first place. Isn’t the lecturer there to impart knowledge and the students to receive it? Such was the case in this old fogey’s day . . .

    If I want discussion, I can get it in the Student Union bar . . .

    • Ian

      Which is great if you think of students as empty bowls and you just turn on the tap to fill them up with some good ol’ fashioned book learnin’, but making sure they actually take it in is a bit more complicated than that.

      Classroom discussions, ideally, are a melting pot of ideas – people giving their own takes on the subject and being exposed to interpretations they might not otherwise have hit upon – a teacher can’t communicate 100% effectively to everyone in the class, but if you get everyone talking about it then maybe the guy struggling to understand will click with someone else’s way of thinking. Getting the students to help each other learn is a really valuable skill as a teacher, and can’t be overrated.

      Plus there’s the fact that if you make them talk about the topic at hand they have a better chance of actually remembering it when they walk out of the door than if you just Impart at them like it’s the 1890s.

      • Just Sayin’

        Hmmm… sounds fine in theory but help from other students would necessitate them having the knowledge that I don’t have. I have zero interest in their melting pot of ideas unless they are based on knowledge of the subject matter of the course (otherwise it’s just ignorance talking to ignorance). Supposing they had that knowledge, then why would they be taking the class? The lecturer has the knowledge, I don’t expect other students to have it. As for taking it in and remembering, I always found learning by rote extremely helpful . . .

        • Ian

          Okay, thanks for clarifying that there’s actually no point in continuing this discussion, I appreciate it.

    • PorlockJunior

      Well, when this old fogey graduated, 50-some years ago, the school insisted on lots of discussion in a wide range of its classes. This was treated as an old tradition there, and the place stuck to its traditions in a notable way, considering that it was a notorious bunch of radicals.

      Did it work? Well, it’s still in business, still doing these things the same way where it counts, still keeping its reputation among people who work with its graduates. And, speaking of radicals, some years ago it was the first college to get the whole place wired for Internet access, dorm rooms and all, before there was WiFi to make it easy. Weird place. Inconsistent, at least with other people’s theories.

  • Shannon

    Thanks for this. I take ratemyprofessor with a grain of salt. I had one professor where a lot of people were saying they were too hard. They were the nicest professor ever, but she did everything in her power to make sure they knew the material. It was their responsibility in the end to make the grade they wanted. It’s quite sad that people who don’t put much effort in, or are not happy with their grades will tell students to avoid at all cost!