We are well into the semester, and as midterms approach, you could be feeling like you are on top of the world. You have good standing in all your classes, you’re understanding assignments and concepts from all of your classes and you’re not struggling at all. Or you could be struggling.

You’ve already looked up if it’s too late to drop a class (it is), you’re behind, you don’t understand what’s being taught, and it’s all your professor’s fault. Well, that’d be nice to think, right? It’s not me it’s you? Sometimes it is the professor, but sometimes it’s us.

In a moment of frustration with a particular class I’m taking right now, I looked up reviews for the professor teaching the class. I had not chosen this professor myself, rather, the school switched instructors for the class last minute and I need the class, so there were no other options. Optimism mixed with a bit of senioritis didn’t compel me to look up reviews when I saw the change of instructor, I thought, ‘who cares? I’m out of here in April. How bad can it be?’

Bad. Very very very bad. The instructor at some point said to the class, “does this make sense? I’m not very good at explaining things.” Um, what? So, upon looking up reviews for this professor, the reviews, unsurprisingly, are horrible. Horrible in the sense that you can quickly gather that this professor isn’t a great instructor, but also horrible in the sense that some of these reviews are written in poor taste. The reviews made me question, what is appropriate and inappropriate to include in a review for a professor on Rate My Professors?

Before writing a bad review on a professor, consider why you’re writing it. Are you writing the review because you received a bad grade on an assignment or because the professor wouldn’t let you turn in an assignment late? These would not be reasons to leave a bad review. A bad review should be left if, despite working hard, coming to class, paying attention, taking notes, and getting all assignments in, you are still struggling with a class.

When a professor makes a subject matter more difficult to learn than it should be, a negative review can be left. The only things that should be reviewed are the professor’s teaching style and the class structure (assignment and test frequency, group work, etc.). Attacking someone’s personality traits and physical traits have nothing to do with how well they can teach a subject. Use of profanity and name calling are inappropriate as well.

Positive reviews should be the same. Being a funny, hot, or a cool professor doesn’t necessarily make them a good teacher. Again, what matters is style and structure.

When writing reviews, especially reviews on a person, we have to be ethical. By ethical I mean, we have to consider more than just ourselves when writing the review. Sure firing off a nasty review of the professor who messed up your GPA might feel good for a moment, but to be ethical we have to consider all involved stakeholders. In a case of Rate My Professor reviews, the stakeholders are you, your professor, and all of the other future students who will see and consider your review. Think about it, your review calling Professor So & So an asshole will still be seen by students once you’re well into your career post-grad. Before constructing and posting a review, consider the professor who might see it as well as all of the future students who will see it.

I am a big fan of Rate My Professor. The website empowers students to make informed decisions about who they would like to teach them a certain subject matter. We look up reviews for restaurants, beauty products and random things on Amazon before we buy them, so why wouldn’t we do that for our teachers? It’s easy to forget that by being students here we are also customers, shoppers, right? We’re the ones sinking into the perilous depths of debt. It’s good to be able to receive information from prior students who have lived through a class with a particular professor, and it is also important to be good humans.

Consider all people affected when you write your Rate My Professor reviews, and don’t be mean just to be mean. Be thoughtful, informative, and ethical.