Thursday, February 17, 2011

If You Can't Take The Heat, Get Your *** Outta the Classroom

Much has been said about this Natalie Munroe, a teacher at Central Bucks (a local high school here in PA). She was suspended with pay for blogging about how her students were "lazy whiners" (and that was probably the nicest thing she said about them in the rant.)

Two camps have formed--one which vilifies her for attacking her students, one which applauds her for "telling it like it is."

As a fellow teacher, my initial reaction was sympathy and fear. I certainly understand what a frustrating job we have. I also have a FB account and (obviously) a blog, both of which I treat with extreme caution.


When I did a little digging (and, granted, I don't work with this woman, I've never seen her teach, I have no knowledge of the school community of Central Bucks), I found that she's only been teaching since 2006. In one of her blogs, she writes about how "the students get worse and worse every year." Honey...four and a half years and you're already talking like one of those burned out 30-year-veterans bitterly chugging coffee in the faculty room? Not okay.

Second...EVERYTHING you post online is public. EVERYTHING. And as a teacher, sorry, but you relinquish (to a certain extent) your right to free speech. You are expected to model appropriate behavior, both in and out of the classroom (and now in cyberspace). When I was a younger teacher, my students constantly hounded me for info about my private life. While some of my easily flattered colleagues gladly volunteered such details, I would joke "Oh, I just crawl under my desk every afternoon and grade papers until you guys come back the next morning." They did NOT need to know what I did (even though it was hardly scintillating.) It just wasn't their business! I remember once mentioning that I liked the Cure, and a student perked up and said, "Wow, you have like this whole secret life!" Um, no...I just don't use the classroom as my personal sounding board.

Third...what I've read of Ms. Munroe's posts are dishearteningly negative and mean-spirited. One of the first requirements of teaching should be liking kids--quirks and all. I've certainly had disagreements with students, or personality differences, but I have honestly cared for each and every one of my students over the past thirteen years. They have inspired, challenged, and intrigued me. I miss them terribly when they graduate. One of the best things about FB has been the ability to see former students grow into amazing young women and men...and I'm humbled to think I had a tiny part in their journey. True, I've never taught in public school, and I'm sure there are challenges I've never dreamed of in that realm. But what I do know that wherever I've taught--from downtown Jersey City to the Upper East Side to bucolic Chester County--is that kids are kids, and need to be heard, loved and supported. That means different things, depending on the individual. It could mean a quiet conversation after school, providing a forum for them to shine, or numerous emails/calls home to a parent. But it is our job as teachers to find out what will work, and try our best. And if it doesn't work, you make peace with it and get on with your life. Maybe you complain with your colleagues in the break room, or hash it out over happy hour. But you do NOT blast the kids in a public forum.

I hope Ms. Munroe can learn from this experience and become a better teacher because of it. Or maybe it's time for her to move on.