My ego and confidence are taking a hit - teacher’s of groupthink, what do you think?

I just finished teaching my very first “class of my own”. I’ve been teaching on and off for a few years, through grad school TA’ing and private tutoring, but I got a full time job teaching physics this year. And I made the mistake of checking ratemyteacher - not good...actually horrible horrible reviews.

So here’s the situation, I was hired super last minute to replace someone on sick leave. Literally 5 days after the interview, I was standing in front of the class giving my first lecture. I had almost zero prep time and was doing a lot of the class on the fly as a result (since I had never taught it before).

For my job, we have to do both the classes and labs. I teach the equivalent of first year university physics (I teach in college, we call it CEGEP in Quebec), and every science student has to take three physics classes as a requirement to get their degree. The class I taught is the most failed class across the province (along with Integral Calculus). It’s accepted that a large portion of students who usually do well (80’s and 90’s) can have a rough time and sometimes fail because they just can’t grasp it. Baptism by fire as my chair called it.

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So, in no particular order, here are the beefs:

  • “She doesn’t hand things back” - this is true, I was overwhelmed with the amount of marking, which I am told is normal and some teachers even after years struggle with. HOWEVER, the stuff that I didn’t hand back (3 assignments) the students got the solutions 3 hours after they handed it in since I made them do these assignments as review for their test and it was due the day before the test. They also weren’t worth very much of their mark, so they took a backseat to other things, like labs.
  • “She makes mistakes” - true-ish - sometimes when writing out a formula while solving a problem, I’ll forget a variable from one line to another, but it’s always corrected in real time (kinda like a typo). Isn’t this normal to a certain extent? Again, I’m working on this by being more prepared in the future with full solutions in my notes (which I had no time to do this semester).
  • “She can’t teach and everyone is screwed for the exam, never ever take her. RUN RUN RUN” - this is what I don’t know - I’ve gotten feedback from students that I explain things really clearly and go over stuff that it’s obvious the class isn’t getting. I’ve had students be really excited that I teach the follow up class. But reality is, at some point, I have to move on because we have to cover all the material.

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There was definitely a group of student (15% I’d say) who struggled terribly, expected me to just give them the answers to the test and make the class easy for them - I think especially since I was a sub. In physics, a big part of the material to learn is learning how to problem solve, and the majority of students want to just memorize problem sets to do well in the course, but they don’t learn anything if that’s the case. And a small subset of students just hated me from the beginning because I wasn’t who they expected.

What I find kinda infuriating though - when I look at the comments and the “rating” I have, and then look at other (male) teachers in my department, the students have the same type of comments for some of these guys, but they get higher ratings (I get all 1s and 2s, they guys get 2 and 3s). I can’t help but feel like I’m being subjected to some sexism here (although the students are clearly not aware of it).

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Should I take these comments in stride and work on the stuff I need to and brush off what seems to be disgruntled students who just wanted an easy mark? Or when you get across the board terrible reviews (i have about 6, I have about 75 students in total) am I being one of those teachers who doesn’t realized how bad they are? Help me Groupthink, I need some perspective.