Rabbit Ears and Yelping in the Ivory Tower

jackrabbit3

My first real job out of college was teaching at Chino High School – my alma mater.  Although I had been teaching there for only one year before the Viet Nam-era draft snatched me away, one piece of advice from a guidance counselor (who was the guidance counselor back when I was a student at CHS) has always stuck with me.  

Andy high school teacher

My first year of teaching (photo from the 1967 Chino High School year book)

She told me that as a new teacher I should try to avoid developing “rabbit ears.”  She felt that no matter how well you do in the classroom, there always will be students who are critical, and it’s easy to be distracted by negative comments when in fact the majority may be happy with your performance

In other words, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, she was saying that  “You can please some of the students all of the time and all of the students some of the time, but you can’t please all of the students all of the time.”

Senior seminar

Posing with my senior seminar students at SSU just prior to my retirement.  I wonder if some were not pleased.

It wasn’t until the advent of  RateMyProfessors.com  (RMP) that I began to fully appreciated this “rabbit ear”  advice.   For those who are not familiar with RMP, it is a website that allows students to anonymously evaluate their professors in a very public arena – the perfect venue for creating acute rabbit-ear neurosis.   You might say that RMP is the Yelp of academia.  And believe me, there can be some pretty creative and mean zingers on that web site.  Here’s just one example I found on line –  “I never wore my seatbelt driving to school because I wanted to die before making it to his class.”  Fortunately,  this was about some other hapless professor, not me. 

Of course, as soon as I learned about RMP I just had to check out the reviews about my classes.  A very small sample of the comments are in the boxes below.  With all due modesty, most of them were positive.

good-reviews

But clearly,  I did not please all of the students all of the time, as the below not-so-positive RMP comments about me suggest.  Even though there weren’t that many,  it was always a jolt to come across one of these.   My struggle to keep my rabbit ears in check was a difficult one.

not so good reviews 2

Now that I am retired and no longer subject the anonymous slings and arrows of student reviews, my life should be simpler (and my hair combed more often).  But with Andy’s Corner I find myself in the potential crosshairs of on-line criticism once more.  However, the beauty of this particular blog is that (a) submitted comments are not anonymous and (b) I have the option to nix them before anyone else sees them.

rabbit ears down

So, if you consider my contributions to be “DUMB!” (or worse) you may as well save your breath – your comments will never see the light of day (on BLM at least).   If, on the other hand, if you are pleased, by all means let me know and I will happily post your comments.  Please don’t think of this as a form of censorship, rather see this as a strategy for keeping my rabbit-ear neurosis in check.

Added note:  I found a couple of articles published in the Chronicle of Higher Education regarding RMP that are worth checking out. One questions the value of student feedback in our U.S. university system and the other provides some great examples of how RMP can be manipulated.  Regarding the second, I would never have dreamed of posting comments on RMP about myself.  But I can empathize with those who have.

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