Hollywood does a pretty good job of depicting the ideal teacher. Such an educator instantly connects with even the most struggling of students, seeing past his or her faults and quickly converting the student into valedictorian/doctor/Broadway star or general success of one’s choice. Long hours and incredible patience are always involved.
But if recent events up in Pennsylvania are any indication, some teachers aren’t quite following the Mr. Holland’s Opus/Stand and Deliver/Lean on Me model. Reports out of the Philadelphia area have a Central Bucks East High School teacher suspended for calling out her students on a blog (which is no longer available).
What did Natalie Munroe, the teacher in question, say? Did she talk about struggling students or the challenges of high-stakes testing? Did she worry about classes that were too hard or out-of-date books? Did she demand smaller class sizes or better-paid teachers? No, not quite.
According to the Associated Press, the 10th through 12th grade noted on her blog:
“My students are out of control. 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.”
Or how about this highlight:
“Kids! They are disobedient, disrespectful oafs. Noisy, crazy, sloppy, lazy LOAFERS.”
We don’t even hear such criticism from Sue Sylvester on GLEE these days.
Obviously, Munroe has every right to think what she thinks. And for those of us playing catch up on her tale, we are just starting to fill in the blanks and learn the story. Teachers’ jobs are incredibly stressful, and we should expect that such sentiments will surface, particularly after a bad day or a bad series of days.
But aren’t those the instances where screaming into a pillow may be the best approach? As a high school teacher, one has to realize that students will read your blog, check out your Facebook page, and generally know your e-life. Perhaps Munroe’s intention was for students to see these posts. A little tough love now could turn around students’ approach to the classroom in the future. Or maybe she just got frustrated. Regardless, is this really the way she now wants her career defined publicly, full of rants?
What can we learn from this? If anything, instances like this demonstrate the need for a code of conduct on how educators use new media and social media. The last thing we need is a complete overreaction, with administrators saying that teachers can no longer blog because of the possibility of something like this happening. Teachers make terrific bloggers, and I am constantly learning from those practitioners who are posting their experiences. We shouldn’t shut down those educators out of fear of a few screamers joining in the fun.