From Castlebar - County Mayo -

Local Papers Commentary
From the Mayo News - 23 March 2005
By The Jaundiced Eye
26, Mar 2005 - 12:49

Mayo teachers react to ‘scandalous’ website

SCHOOL principals in Mayo have reacted with fury and dismay to the news that their teachers are being rated by students on the controversial website, The site, which is modelled on similar ones in Britain and Canada, provides a forum for students to post ratings on teachers on the basis of ‘easiness, helpfulness and clarity’. However, school administrators claim that the anonymous nature of the postings, allied to the inability of teachers to respond, has created a situation that would not be tolerated by any other professional body. The site claims that over 14,000 ratings have been posted about 5,400 teachers. A number of Mayo schools are included on the site, which first came to national prominence last week when teachers’ representative leaders condemned it. However, despite their protests, the Department of Education has said that it had no role in policing the web and it was unable to stop pupils posting messages or ratings on the site.

If you are a teacher I'm sure one of the worst thing about bad teachers is picking up after them. By far the vast majority of teachers are good if not excellent teachers and the frustration of dealing with the output from poor colleagues must be quite something. So I reckon most teachers at least secretly welcome this site if it succeeds in pinpointing the duds in their midst. What teachers know on a day-to-day basis about the colleagues that they carry may now get out there into the public domain. Can you imagine the frustration of getting a class in from a dud teacher that you have to now bring up to speed because Teacher X couldn’t teach to save their lives?

The denunciation of the website by the teachers representatives apparently caused a thousand-fold increase in hits to this ‘scandalous’ site and has actually encouraged thousands who had never heard of it to go online and rate their teachers – perhaps even many who had long since left school! I see even the Castlebar website ran a poll on this one too. The result showed a slight majority in favour of the rating site. How many teachers are ever dismissed? The 2003 OECD background report on teaching in Ireland states quite clearly that it is pretty much impossible to dismiss a teacher for incompetence in the formal Irish educational system. But everyone knows that pretty much every school of any size has at least one dud teacher active within its walls that should not be let anywhere near our little darlings never mind try to teach them. Talk to any parent about their frustration with dealing with teachers in their protective cocoon provided by the law, department, principals, unions, etc. Ask a principal ‘Can I move my child into another class that is not taught by X?’ You will get one answer ‘No!’ – otherwise they’d all want to remove their little Johnny or Mary from Teacher X’s classes and then where would they be? So there will be a certain amount of glee evident out there at the apparent discomfit of teachers with this website.

Of course 360-degree feedback is now becoming quite common in workplaces where even subordinates and peer colleagues rate your performance – not just your boss. So why shouldn’t students rate their teachers? And even more relevant – it’s commonplace at courses nowadays for the teacher/tutor to hand out an assessment form to the pupils at the end of the course or lecture to get feedback on what you really thought about the course or lecture. If you’re a bad teacher in this context you won’t be long finding out that you should be in some other business.


Shopping when it suits

Around the clock shopping recently came to Mayo when Tesco in Castlebar announced it was opening its doors to customers on a 24-7 basis. The initiative barely caused a stir in the county town, where, by now, constant growth and new initiatives are simply a fact of life. Ten years ago if anyone had suggested it would be possible to do your shopping at any time of the night or day in Castlebar, people might have laughed at the notion. Who could have imagined that life would change so much in the meantime, that finding time to carry out the chore of buying the groceries and food necessary to keep us alive, would prove one of the biggest challenges in every week? Added to this, the ever-continuing growth within the retail sector in Castlebar is making the town increasingly attractive to shoppers, who now come from all over the country to see exactly what is happening in Mayo’s county town. Last Christmas, shoppers from every province in the country travelled specifically to Castlebar to take advantage of the convenient car-parking and wide range of leading shops on offer.

What’s Ireland’s most popular pastime? Walking in our lovely countryside? A day at the beach? Cycling? Visiting Museums? Fishing? Birdwatching? Wrong on all counts. Strolling through shopping ‘Malls’ on a Sunday is now officially our most popular leisure pursuit. All the same 24x7 shopping is great. You discover at 3am in the morning that you have run out of milk or bread. All you have to do now is jump in your car and drive the five miles or so into Castlebar and grab a litre or a loaf off the shelves of Tesco. Presumably very shortly Dunnes, Aldis, Supervalu, etc., will follow suit with 24x7 open door policy. Apparently they are finding that it’s easier, simpler, more cost-effective just to leave the doors open than to have to go to all the bother of locking up only to have to open again a few hours later.

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