Below is an email exchange between a department chair and myself, concerning a professor I did not think was performing adequately. Admittedly, I was angry at first, however I do not think she appropriately addressed the issue at hand. Feedback is welcome and encouraged.
I am writing to you in regards to Professor Miriam Gorarrian.
I would like to preface my complaint by saying that I took five years of Spanish in high school and I enrolled in her Spanish 1 class to brush up on my basic grammar and vocabulary.
I do not know how to put this kindly; partially because I'm still irate at her latest display, and partially because I am really disappointed that she was even hired as an adjunct given her rating on ratemyprofessor.com.
Therefore, I am just going to be frank: she is a horrific teacher.
I was first taken aback when she took to announcing grades in a public fashion.
My second issue was when she started discussing a student's personal issues with said student right in front of the class.
However, it wasn't until after our first exam when she said, and I quote, "do not guess if you do not know the answer. Leave it blank." She went on to say that our "butchering" the language by making an honest attempt was "offensive to [her] language". This is not only discouraging to students but a ridiculous way to teach. RIC's own motto uses the word, "reach", so why does the university have a teacher who discourages that very trait on staff?
During our second test, she allowed another student to retake the first exam, including the first exam's listening comprehension section. So while I, who took my exam on time am trying to complete my own test, I had to listen his reading comprehension on full blast. She also talked through the entire exam with that student. This was not conducive to my learning and aggravated the students around me as well. Explain to me why I should suffer because another student was late? Why wouldn't she meet him during her office hours?
This professor habitually reads straight out of the book, which she puts on the screen, however refuses to put in focus.
She does not explain her rational, but rather speaks over you loudly when she corrects a student. She has never broken down the grammar, or reviewed sentence structure despite the fact it is apparent that no one in my class can discern a noun from an article or identify a predicate if their lives depended on it.
I reached my limit today when the student behind me, who struggles, borrowed a paper from another student in order to get the correct answers. This was AFTER we had gone over the paper, and it was pretty obvious that he took it so he could check his answers and she calls him out in front of the class accusing him of trying to cheat. We were finished! What was he cheating on?
This same student, later in the class, was called upon to read off the projection and complete an oral activity. When he said to Prof. Gorarrian, "I can't read it" instead of zooming in, she skipped over him.
THAT is deplorable.
Is this how RIC operates? We leave behind those who need help?
I am disgusted that my tuition goes to her paycheck. Why was she hired? Her reviews from RIC, URI, and PC are all terrible. So please tell me why she is still on payroll?
If no one online has anything good to say about her, then I can only assume her teacher reviews are not stellar either.
I want a refund for this class, I want to be taken out of this class and I want her spoken to.
I'm sorry if this appears abrasive, but it is absolutely ridiculous that this school would hire someone like that to begin with.
Tuition is incredibly expensive and as a student who lives on her own, works full time and goes to school full time I expect to be educated, not read to out of a book, publicly humiliated or worse, pushed aside.
I hope this does not fall on deaf ears and that she will be corrected or better yet, retired, as soon as possible.
Dear Allison:I've read carefully your email relating your concerns about your Spanish 101 class. Before I go on, let me be clear that I can't speak to the issues that involve other students. They would have to speak to me directly.
After reading your message I met with Ms. Gorriarán to discuss your complaints. I asked Ms. Gorriarán about your concern that "she took to announcing grades in a public fashion," although you didn't specify if your grade was so "announced." Ms. Gorriarán told me that at the end of one class meeting, some students approached her wanting to know their grades and she told them, one by one. She also didn't recall telling the class that they were "butchering the language." I asked her about your complaint that she "never broken down the grammar, or reviewed sentence structure." She assures me that she does explain the grammar, but she did say that some students still have a difficult time understanding basic points. Perhaps she offered further explanation during one of your three absences.I asked her about the quality of the projection of the e-book. She told me that you usually sit at the back of the class and that she can only enlarge the screen so much without losing the text or images she is working with. Perhaps you could move up closer to the front of the class. I also brought up the issue of the listening comprehension for the student who was making up the test during the class' second test. Your instructor said that yes, a student was making up a test at that time, but that she gave the reading comprehension portion toward the end of the class period when most students had completed their exam. She didn't remember that the volume was "at full blast."Our department takes great care to provide qualified, experienced and professional instructors. We evaluate our teaching staff by making periodic visits to classes, and carefully assessing departmental student evaluations. The latter are the only reliable student evaluation that we consider. Ms. Gorriarán's student evaluations are positive, as are her faculty evaluations. I have not had any complaints from other students regarding this instructor. I'm sorry that you have not had a good experience.I see that you took a Spanish 101 course even though you have had five years of high school Spanish, which the department advises against. Students should not take classes that do not challenge them. Also, the presence of more advanced students intimidates beginning language students, as you can imagine. We normally don't allow students to remain in an Elementary language class if they have had prior instruction in that language.I asked Ms. Gorriarán why you were allowed to stay in the class and she said that she identifies students who would be better served in another class the first week of classes, but that you didn't register for the class until the second week of the semester. I understand that besides these two class meetings, you missed three additional classes. This suggests to me that, because you are too advanced for this course, you may be bored in class, which would explain why you sit in the back of the room and knit, which, I told Ms. Gorriarán, should not be allowed. Your lack of engagement would also explain the decline in your grade for the class.
When I spoke to Ms. Gorriarán on Thursday afternoon, she said you had not been in class that day. If you wish to drop the class, please let me know. If you took this course to satisfy the language requirement, I suggest that you take the CLEP test (administered at CCRI). Students who score at least a 50 on this test 6 receive credits for SPAN 101 and 102, and thus satisfy the second language requirement.
If you have any further concerns, please come and see me in my office.Sincerely,
Olga Juzyn, Ph.D.
Chair of Modern Languages
Rhode Island College
600 Mt. Pleasant Ave.
Providence, RI 02908
Main Office: 401.456.8029
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my email.
I would like you to know my absences were medically excused, and I do not appreciate your tone concerning them.
Regarding my participation, anytime I have been called on, I am paying attention and I answer correctly, or can work my way to the correct answer. I do not appreciate the insinuation that I would take personal issue with a professor because of my own choice to "not pay attention", despite the fact that when I am called on, I always know what we are working on.
Concerning my personal grades, we've had two tests. I did extremely well on the first and maybe not so well on the second, that's two data points which is not even mathematically considered a pattern. Though, if this was a pattern, then I would not be too concerned with my "intimidating other students".
Again, I do not appreciate your tone.
To counter your point about how the professor may have elaborated on certain things while I was absent, does not change the fact that no one in the class understands basic grammar. A fact that she and I both have acknowledged. Thus, we are left with the assumption that either her teaching is inept, or the entire class is.
I have noted in your email that you have said nothing about her skipping over students who struggle, or her asking we do not make an attempt if we cannot be sure the answer is correct, which prefaced the butchering comment.
If you reread my original email, you will find that it was not I who was skipped over because I couldn't see, but the student behind me who struggles was. My sitting closer to the board in class would not assuage this issue as it has nothing to do with vision. The issue is a student being left behind.
As for my knitting, there are plenty of universities and professors who permit knitting as further studies agree that knitting often elevates pressures and anxieties of sitting for long periods of time and can actually increase focus. Often times it's less distracting than fidgeting and if I'm looking forward while knitting, then I'm obviously not texting. If we're going to start persecuting distracting behaviors in her classroom that she permits, I would suggest texting be your first target.
With regard to the student retaking the listening comprehension section, regardless of the volume, retakes should be done during her office hours or on the other student's time if it in ANY way could interfere with the class at hand. Though I signed up late, I managed to get my work done on time, thus why should I suffer for another students inability to? It's the teacher's responsibility to deal with this matter without impeding on the education of the other students who are up to speed.
Maybe my second test grade would have been higher had my environment been conducive to test taking. I'm very confused as to how knitting can hurt my ability to learn, however listening to a foreign language blare during my exam will not.
I've withdrawn myself from the class as you have professionally chosen to singled my complaint out to the professor, who still grades me for another month; instead of talking to her about this anonymously to insure a smooth resolution with the promise of no repercussions.
I would like to posit that more students would come forward with problems if they had assurance that they could do so with protection and with the knowledge that their complaint would be respected, not demeaned by overlooking the issues by instead pushing focus on arbitrary points. Sadly, many people will keep their heads down if they feel they might negatively bear the consequences of questioning status quo. Luckily, I do not need this class to graduate, so I have the luxury of being able to drop it. This is a luxury many students do not have, and many freshmen will not risk.
I do understand that the student and staff evaluations are the only standard to which you hold your professors. I can see how she could receive positive reviews from her peers, considering your antagonizing and accusatory tone towards me in your response and how you have chosen to handle this issue by insinuating this is somehow a personal vendetta against this professor.
However, I am not buying the notion that you have only received positive reviews about this professor from students.
Again, I appreciate your taking the time to read and respond to my email.
No further response from you is desired. As nothing was really addressed from my first email, I feel comfortable in saying you are no longer considered a viable resource to me, concerning this issue.
I hope you have a pleasant rest of your semester.
****BELOW I HAVE LINKED HER RATINGS ON RATEMYPROFESSOR.COM FOR ALL THREE SCHOOLS****