While Natalie Munroe’s explosive blog about the comments she wished she could place in her students report cards got her suspended from her teaching position pending further investigation, it has met with mixed reviews among the public. Some think she was right on about student attitudes and behavior making education so difficult today, contributing to the shortage of those who want to become teachers; they think she pinpointed exactly what’s wrong in no accountability at home, parents who want to be friends rather than authority figures. Others think she should absolutely lose her job for posting such a thing on the grounds it clearly demonstrates why she should not be teaching any longer. As legal experts weigh in supporters saying she did it as carefully as she could, not using her full name and not disclosing the name students or of the school, one lawyer vowing to represent her if she was fired, key issues about freedom of speech are being brought to the forefront. In conjunction behavioral analysts are blaming technology saying that it blurs the lines between parents and kids as parents friend them on Facebook; never having had to go to a library and actually handle a book to look up facts on The Great Depression or an Renaissance artist, expecting things to come to them with the speed of a search engine they get frustrated and give up, from physics to calculus to long division. Yet key details seem to be being left out, key pieces of what’s going on left ignored.
Examining whether or not this teacher should be fired, it was never a debate regarding freedom of speech, it was never an issue of did she have the right to post said blog in a public venue, and less important than employee conduct on the internet, electronic devices, in the digital public domain; her Massachusetts employers have Ms. Munroe dead to rights on things far more basic in the reasons you lose your job category. One: doing personal business on company time coupled with, here’s the biggie, incompetence; she openly admits at the top of the blog she is doing this at work, presumably using company, i.e. school, resources to badmouth and berate her students in public for anyone to read, joking saying, since she was blogging about work related things, she was giving her conscience a free pass. Then there is the content itself littered with expletives, laced with misspellings, bought to public attention by her students who very quickly did find the post; most reasonable people would assume if they posted a blog, posted written material blatantly exposing the fact they no longer cared whether they had the job they currently held, simultaneously revealing complete lack of ability to do aforementioned job, they wouldn’t keep it. That’s what makes this different than the majority of opinions expressed in my own work defending the rights of people to post comments where they like and remain employed. Because unlike the salon worker who complained about her boss and coworkers, it did not affect her ability to cut hair; it did not affect her ability to function in the work environment. She wanted the problem solving and wasn’t getting, vs. she was against problem solving or bettering the place. Comparing similar incidents, unlike the teacher who was debated after being fired for saying on Facebook she would like to hire a hit man to deal with students, a clear moment of frustration, Munroe’s blog is a long term, overstated complaint about every facet of her job capped off by the dummy comment list and subsequent defense of it.
And boy does it prove her incompetence “concerned your kid is an automaton, as she just sits there emotionless for an entire 90 minutes, staring into the abyss never volunteering to speak or do anything.” Rat-like, lazy asshole, rude belligerent argumentative fuck, weirdest kid I have ever met, dresses like a street walker, airhead, frightfully dim, dunderhead, I hear the trash company is hiring, utterly loathsome in all imaginable ways, there’s no other way to say this: I hate your kid. These are a sampling the comments she wants to be allowed to put in her students report cards, a majority of which don’t tell parents things they need to work on to make their child more successful in her class, in life; many aren’t calling kids out for bad behavior parents don’t want to see, rather are just down right name calling. Rat-like doesn’t indicate if she is describing their appearance or mannerisms; perhaps this is one of the atypical students, in the posh district where she teaches, who is poor. On one hand in a defense of this written bullying found in additional blog posts, is a quote where she said: “they are rude, disengaged, lazy whiners. They curse, discuss drugs, talk back, argue for grades, complain about everything, fancy themselves entitled to whatever they desire, and are just generally annoying,” but if they do engage in their education, show care for their academic future they are likely to be called rude, belligerent, argumentative, complainer or jerk. Outside those one word responses are phrases like “two words come to mind: brown and nose,” when they even attempt to show respect or “whiney simpering grade- grubber with an unrealistically high perception of own ability level.” Asked too many questions and took too long to ask them. The bell means it’s time to leave.” So apparently students in her class can’t win for losing and can’t do anything right independent of if they speak or chose not to, are uninterested or totally interested, talk to their teacher about their grade or not, then she has the nerve to get mad at a student for acting like an automaton. Further you put things in the comment section of the report card to praise a job well done or to solve a problem the student is having in class; putting aside the insensitivity and bullying nature of the comments, they don’t solve any problem only create more by turning their parents into a justifiably angry mob.
Most poignant was someone who read the following comment: “shy and awkward isn’t cute in the 11th grade; it’s annoying. Must learn to advocate for himself instead of having mommy do it” and commented about their struggle with social anxiety disorder. That may or may not have been Ms. Munroe’s student’s problem, yet it is something she should be on the lookout for. A fact also present in her statement: “I didn’t realize one person could have this many problems,” if that’s true isn’t it time to have a one on one conference with that parent about possible need for counseling, not a one liner being snide, looking down on a student, a kid, a teen who may have psychological issues? If a student doesn’t have any business in honors or being an academic, although the latter observation was written as in academic so the meaning is a little fuzzy, finding out why they are in honors could be helpful; are they trying to get to college, are they in it because mommy and daddy want them to be. Consider for a moment it’s the latter, notice what the student is good at, has a passion for, sit down with the parent and say he’s really good at music or she should be in honors science, advanced computers, honors math but not in my English class. Am concerned your kid is going to come in one day and open fire on the school (wish I was kidding) is one of the most provocative on the comment wish list precisely because if she honestly thought a student might do so, she is duty bound to report it, not make it into a bad joke that could at best, send a parent into a panic at worst get others, including herself killed.
Smart educators, good leaders command respect not demand respect; they command it with how they conduct themselves, by finding creative, innovative ways to engage those they are in contact with, responsible for. However lazy, uninvolved she thinks her students are, however inpatient in wanting everything now, yesterday; she is no better. None of her blogs include anything on ways she has tried to engage her students, technology she incorporated; claims her students get angry when you ask them to think creatively, unfortunately so does she. Being an English major myself, having read a fair smattering of the American and world classics; I can say most of them are dull, dry, boring, may have been Avant-garde at one point but in modern times make you wonder why they made it to classic, why we remember a particular pieces title at all. Still there are ways; telling students The Great Gatsby is the 1920’s version of Jersey Shore or a soap opera will at least get them to crack the spine. Talking about the desensitization to the death of the girl in Gatsby and current culture would lead to a lively discussion or the attempt to reinvent one’s self Gatz going to Gatsby and so on. Telling students The Sun Also Rises is combination, vacation gone bad and romance a la Ashley and Bentley from the Bachelorette again will get them to open the book. Teaching The Scarlet Letter, bring in You Tube videos of controversial parents who made their children walk around wearing signs about what bad behavior they got caught doing, discuss how that makes them feel and how that relates to the woman in the book; better have them do the research themselves, talk about what they find. Another discussion point trying to overcome mistakes and being branded with that type of symbol, what cases, instances and outcomes we see in current culture?
Teaching the importance of grammar, vocabulary bring in humorous examples of mistakes in meaning, demonstrate how silly they look in everyday documents challenge them to find similar errors in the things they read routinely. Similarly use their complaining nature to their advantage and yours maybe the person who comes up with the best argument as to why the assignment is bad, needs improvement gets 2-5 points extra credit on that task; they still have to do the thing they don’t want to, but it channels their energy, gives them a sense they have some control over what they are doing, hones critical thinking skills. Challenge them to come up with their own, better assignment and at every opportunity give them a chance to choose their own reading material. Arguing for grades, use that to sharpen their debate, negotiating skills, because the kid arguing for a grade today will be negotiating his salary tomorrow, not all of us have unions and other entities to do it for us. Perhaps if Ms. Munroe had negotiation skills she would find her job less distasteful, could create interactive debate she might not find her students so frightfully dim nor would she be doomed to remain so herself ignoring the well of knowledge her students have to offer.
Instead here is a teacher seemingly unwilling to put an effort into building a connection to her students, doesn’t understand that getting a student who formerly hated to read reading is a victory, getting a student who formerly hated a type of literature to at least find one positive in it is a worthwhile endeavor and lacks, or has lost sight of, all classroom management tools judging by the comment below quoted by a sympathizer writing a commentary posing the question what would happen if Oakland teachers blogged like that, congratulating Munroe for detailing what’s going on, on the front lines of education in America. “In the past week alone, I’ve written up 4 separate students–one for dropping the f-bomb in class, one for repeatedly saying “shittin’,” one for crafting a pencil topper made from paper clips into the shape of a man and woman having sex, and one for being disrespectful to me (Me: Stop tapping. Him: (ignores and keeps on tapping. Another student tells him to stop but he still doesn’t, indicating that if he didn’t stop when I told him to, he wouldn’t stop for this kid either. Another student then kicked the back of the first student’s chair. Me: “I DID tell you to stop that already!” Him: “Yeah, you were ignored.” Me: Do you want me to write you up?” Him: “Go ahead.” Me: “Done!”
Others would find this inaccurate; once more, she proves her ineptitude. Ironically she wants students held accountable, implying they should be treated like adults, but they aren’t allowed to use adult language. Rather than setting the expectation the first day these students walked in the door to simulate a job, expecting professionalism to raise the standard, if that’s what she wants to do, or simply turning that f-bomb into a conversation about you wouldn’t say that on a job, asking how many of them have jobs and countering any student who says they do at my burger joint job, by asking if they want to work there for the rest of their life, she wrote him up and out of the class. The kid who repeatedly said “shittn” was obviously using it as vocabulary; challenging him that if he wants his opinion heard he needs to find other words to express himself or he will be ignored, does far more for this student’s vocabulary, success in class and life than an office referral. Her last example demonstrates her stupidly goading a student into the inevitable office write up, leaving a majority of readers, having dealt with kids, thinking what did you expect him to say? A teacher worth the title would have said I asked you to stop tapping your fellow student asked you, even kicked the back of your chair in an effort to show you how disruptive you are being; get out of my class. Clear, direct, no debate, challenge, goading or condescension; an even better control mechanism would have been to ask the student his opinion of reading material, discussion topic or a complete change of subject, adding to the ineffective nature of this teacher’s performance as a whole.
Our sympathizer has brought home a powerful point, though probably not the one intended; this isn’t an inner city school and unlike their incidents from Oakland, Ms. Munroe isn’t discovering 12 year olds doing sex acts in closets, has likely never been robbed at school, let alone by students, experiences no threats of physical or sexual violence directed at her, doesn’tt have to break up violent altercations between students and odds are no one has been murdered or similarly injured on school property. There are no gangs, drugs, guns at her school; no one is getting shot in school or in their neighborhood. The closest she’s gotten is a discussion of drugs. She has no idea what the front lines of education are really like and comes off just as whiney, simpering and complaint-filled as she purports her students to be. Going back to ignoring cursing in the above paragraph, ignore the drug speak and the pencil topper and the language which are typical adolescent behaviors, if you can’t handle these simple, mundane uncomplicated issues, don’t teach adolescents. She exhibits about as much patients as her lowest estimation in her students when she fails to try anything other than writing them up, brings all this hostility and negativity into her classroom at the same time accusing them of disrespect; then brags in her dummy comment list about, at minimum the desire to call in sick to avoid one child saying another was the most annoying I’ve had the displeasure of being lock in a room with for an extended period of time. How does she think her students feel; oh that’s right she doesn’t seem to care, because even the ones achieving academically aren’t free from her scorching tongue: “too smart for her own good and refuses to play the school ‘game” such that she’ll never live up to her true potential here; a complete and utter jerk in all ways. Although academically ok, your child has no other redeeming qualities.” One of her former students got it right when he said it was evidence as to why she should no longer be teaching; that students don’t want to learn it’s the teacher’s job to give them motivation to learn. And it certainly isn’t in any teacher’s job description to erode their inherent desire to do so.
Also to be addressed is the idea that this blog was no different than countless Facebook and other electronic posts, someone venting about their day, their life, with no expectation anyone would read it; let’s assume it was meant as humor, satire, hyperbole. None of the comments are funny; they are as juvenile and unsophisticated as students in lower grades than hers might use. People usually expect better from an English teacher especially one letting lose on her charges absence of skills, proving the old adage- those who can’t do teach. Continuing it wasn’t found on her personal computer by a student, friend, this wasn’t in a Live Journal account implication being journal i.e. diary or something someone wants kept private. Nor was this an e-mail to a colleague containing a subject line such as “help this is driving me crazy,” two people talking to handle frustration and get back to work. It was posted in a public venue to say look at me, look at how hard my job is, presumably in the hope people would comment back saying aw poor you, doling out electronic hugs and pats on the head, so this feigning ignorance, having no idea it was a big deal, oh it was just something I posted, attitude is just a ploy to keep her job a reality she has made impossible because this will now forever be found by any school district she applies to. What control could she possibly have over the students her mock comment list was based on, as they would quickly be able to discern which comments were about which person; likewise, what reasonable control could she maintain over future students considering this material is forever out there, to say nothing of the PR nightmare if the school did decide to keep her on staff.
It doesn’t matter if she was 100% correct in everything she said, or that she had the right to post, because her blog puts a glaring spotlight on her incompetence, pertaining to every aspect of her job. Shows no cutting edge, imaginative thinking or ideas on how to get students to absorb material; demonstrates she behaves like 1950’s teachers whose mentality consisted of I’m here to teach you’re here to learn, their job being only to be present, give content, subject matter, no thought to how, all the burden placed on the student to assimilate it. At the same time such actions shooting down psychological analysis of technologies effect on behavior because technology isn’t the issue, a bad teacher is; contrarily research and practical data show more tech integrated into a classroom equates to more engaged students, better attendance and less violence. A teacher who has, herself, an embellished view of people her age when they were students saying: “why can’t they be perfect like we were,” but no students are perfect; they never were. Being the same age as Munroe, a profound mortification, I like her began school in the mid 80’s saw plenty of kids get in trouble including a fifth grader toppling over a desk and yelling, 6th and 7th graders acting hard core street, wearing “gang clothes” and bandanas, my high school had its share of drug interested students along with semi violent ones. And I lived in a typical Midwestern, midsized town. Our generation wasn’t perfect and the 1990’s saw some horrific school shootings.
Icing on the glaring cake of evidence Munroe lives in a dream world of her own perfection. In reality, she is an unequivocal embarrassment to the beginning of the millennial generation who has no qualms about using company property and time for silliness at an age when she should know better, who far more seriously can’t manage a classroom effectively to ensure learning, obviously can’t handle typical, routine adolescent angst, is unable to discern when to send students to the office and when to try reaching them, she has no real concept of what out of control actually is, has no regard for her students other than how fast she can get away from them, no passion or interest in her job. One commenter said: “instead of completing the grade cards appropriately- with fair grades and fair and realistic comments, she was making up this list and posting it on her blog…This shows at best, poor judgment and lack of capacity to do required work. At worst it shows someone who dislikes the students that almost anyone could do a better job coming in with a fair and open attitude.” And that, in a nutshell, is why she should lose her job.