Rate My Professors is my go-to when it comes time for course selection. I know, I know. It’s biased—only the most deeply disgruntled and glowingly exuberant students actually bother posting on it. It assigns teachers numbers to indicate their “overall quality” when, in fact, humans aren’t hotels.
And yet somehow every time Colleen Mallet sends us one of those blood pressure-skyrocketing “Pre-registration begins on…” emails, I find myself opening a new tab and eagerly typing in “rate my professors,” because despite the site’s obvious pitfalls, I can’t help but quench my curiosity about what shenanigans students from last semester (or anytime since the end of the Clinton administration, since Rate My Professors can be pitifully out of date) got into with Professor Penguin of the Ancient Antarctic Studies department who’s teaching that course on the history of the earless seal that I just have to take.
So, to complement the shameless judgement and vengeance characteristic of Rate My Professors, I present to you the following website concept: Rate My Students. It will provide professors a platform to publicly lament their sleepy, needy and apathetic students, and to applaud the conscientious, bright-eyed, I-did-some-extra-primary-source-reading ones.
The upper bar would read “search for a student or school,” and professors could go right down the list of students on their rosters and type in every single name.
Say, for example, the first student pops up with an “overall quality” of 4.9, a 98 percent for “would teach again,” and a 4.5 for “level of difficulty.” Potential “tags for this student” might include “amazing essays,” “enthusiastic participation,” “argues any grade under an A,” “begs for extra credit” and “get ready for office hour visits.” Below would read the teachers’ comments:
“Amazing! This kid will seriously improve the depth of your in-class discussions. Not afraid to voice opinion and debate with fellow students, but always respectful. Asks great questions.”
“Definitely would recommend! I always looked forward to her thoughtful and original responses to both essays and exam questions. She also has neat handwriting, which is a huge time-saver!”
Of course, there’s a reason for that 4.0 level of difficulty:
“Yes, she’s a bright, hardworking kid, but she’ll take up literally all of your time in office hours. Which is fine, unless you have a line of students waiting outside. Once, she would not leave until I answered all 25 of her questions, many of which regarded citation nuances, as opposed to actual content matter. Opened the door to a line of five students outside my office. I had to leave (poor kids!) and then spent my Friday evening answering their questions by email. :/”
So how might a professor use this information? Peek outside the door every 15 or so minutes during office hours with said student to check whether a mob is building. Vow in advance not to budge during the drama that inevitably follows a deserved B on an essay. But otherwise, feel grateful that this dedicated and motivated student signed up to take his/her class.
Now, say that the second student has an “overall quality” of 1.4, a nine percent for “would teach again” and a 4.2 for “level of difficulty.” This student’s tags include “naps in class,” “frequently skips,” “illegible handwriting” and “beware of below desk texting.” This time, the comments might read something like the following:
“Honestly, I don’t understand why this kid would enroll in college if he’s just going to sleep through all his classes. And my class wasn’t even at nine a.m.—it was at 1:30 p.m.! Tried repeatedly to engage him, including talking to him after class to see if everything was okay. He was polite and sweet, but continued to use my class as his post-lunch siesta.”
“When awake, contributes humorous remarks to class discussions. But usually sleeping, with legs up on chair in front of him (ugh), or absent entirely. Seems great outside classroom, but avoid at all costs as a student!”
In response to such unfortunate data, a professor might email the prospective student, politely regretting to inform him that enrollment caps suddenly had to be diminished and that his was the unlucky name picked out of Matthew Vassar’s splashy top hat. Then the student would be the problem of whichever hapless professor neglected to check out Rate My Students.
But alas, Rate My Student would suffer from the same flaws as Rate My Professors. Perhaps out of the 12 professors Sleepy Sam had at Vassar, 10 of them adored him, and the only two disgruntled faculty members were the ones that rated him precisely because they were so peeved. Maybe those two professors taught single variable calculus and Greek, which he took only to fill his quantitative and language requirements, and he’s a Shakespeare-adoring aspiring playwright who double majors in drama and English. That doesn’t make it any less rude for him to nap in class, but that also doesn’t mean that he will not be an engaged student in Drama 216- “Wherefore art Thou? Discovering Thyself Through Playwriting.”
Plus, it might make for some seriously anxious students. Because if I just have to scour Rate My Professor for the juiciest gossip on my potential professors, then certainly I wouldn’t be able to resist typing my own name into the Rate My Students search bar…