Teachers' concern at website craze
Publication Fermanagh Herald
Date November 15, 2006
'He's class craic, the best teacher in the school by a mile.'
'What a Doss!! Stands there on his mobile phone pretending to look busy! You don't fool us!!!'
'How someone can be cool enough to talk with marbles in his mouth, put in red streaks for fun and make very reasonable clothes from towels- I'll never know'.
'A real bully picks on students. Not fair, really mean and pig ignorant. Should not be teaching, no way!'
These are just a sample of the comments from a huge and varied range that are currently lurking on the net about the teachers of Fermanagh.
FEW TEACHERS ESCAPE
Take a browse. In fact take a closer look, and you will find that very few teachers in the county escape a mention. Some comments are positive, others are witty, but some others are written in a nasty and offensive manner that may merit a school expulsion should the identity of the culprits ever be revealed.
But, that it seems, is the beauty of controversial sites such as ratemyteachers.co.uk where students past and present can anonymously praise or criticise a teacher without them or anybody else (apart from the all those logged on to the world-wide web) knowing.
Teachers may not be oblivious to what is going on around them but they certainly have no control over what is been posted on the web about them. Their inability to respond has heightened their dilemma.
And, not only are they being talked about in a blog but they are being rated from one to five, and being judged on their 'easiness, helpfulness, clarity, and overall quality'. So, if you're a popular teacher you may find yourself in the 'Hall of Fame'. But, if you're not so hot with your students, you may just find yourself hanging on the 'Wall of Shame'.
The social networking craze of websites such as, 'Rate My Teacher' and 'Bebo' has reached epidemic proportions. So much so that, this week, teachers across the north claimed they were suffering from stress as a result of pupils personal opinions been made public on the net.
Speaking to the 'Herald' on Monday, Fern Turner, the regional officer of the National Association of the Head Teachers said the situation was a cause of 'great stress and consternation'.
"We are living in a school age where students could approach a teacher or a Principal if they needed an issue addressed. There are also pupil councils available to discuss education and, so I can't comprehend how such material is being publicised on the Internet.
"I don't understand why or how it functions or how it is allowed to function. School is not only about academia but communication and understanding the feelings of others."
The way the websites work, she said, didn't encourage people to think of their comments or the impact these had on members of staff.
"If you look at the situation as a whole, teachers would not be allowed to talk about pupils marks or behaviour in public, so it is completely inappropriate to comment on teachers."
Meanwhile Tom Noble, Principal of the Erne Integrated College, Enniskillen, said websites such as
had a huge potential for misuse.
"There are major concerns for young people. The potential for young people to be subject to all sorts of correspondence by other people using bogus sites is enormous. Like any other piece of technology, if used wisely, it can be a positive thing, but there is a huge potential for anguish and misery if misused by young people."
Mr Noble said while he personally hadn't come across any teacher stress as a result of such website correspondence, he was aware that the problem existed. For sites such as
he said he wasn't unduly concerned.
"I don't take it too seriously. Some pupils put themselves down as 'staff'. But, if there was anything horrible I would, but it (website rating) is not a very scientific way of doing it."
He said Bebo raised serious issues concerning bullying and child protection, and needed to be monitored very closely by those working within the Bebo network.
However, in an interview with the BBC on Monday, Michael and Xochi Birch, the couple who are the driving force of Bebo defended the website, describing it as 'the next generation social networking site where members can stay in touch with their college friends, connect with friends, share photos, discover new interests and just hang out'. Mr Birch said that they take privacy and safety very seriously and take a strong line on fake identity, sectarianism, hate crime, pornography and cyber-bullying. However, he said parents had to take responsibility.
"It's important that parents actually understand what Bebo is, how to use it and they can work with their children and discuss it with their children.It's basically common sense."
Publication Fermanagh Herald
Date October 04, 2006
BY Nula McAloon
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