Over the past week or so, a controversial story has been circulating the Philadelphia area that has a number of people, myself included, rather heated. For those who have not heard the scoop or read the article, I'll give you the brief summary:
A high school English teacher in a prestigious school district has been suspended (with pay) after her personal blog was discovered to include commentary many deem offensive. The following is an excerpt from the article I linked above.
The debate centers over a post Munroe wrote on her blog just over a year ago. Entitled, “If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say…” it outlined the things she wished she could really say to parents about her students’ performance and personalities.
■“A complete and utter jerk in all ways. Although academically ok, your child has no other redeeming qualities.”
■“One of the few students I can abide this semester!”
■“Has no business being in Academic.”
■“Just as bad as his sibling. Don’t you know how to raise kids?”
■“Weirdest kid I’ve ever met.”
■“I hear the trash company is hiring…”
■“There’s no other way to say this: I hate your kid.”
It ends with, “Thus, the old adage…if you don’t have anything nice to say…say 'cooperative in class.'"
For a year, the only response to the post was a “These are effing awesome” boost from someone, presumably a friend.
But the next response reveals the danger of the Internet, where everything ever written can be seen by all.
“Jokes on you because this link is being cycled throughout the students of CB East via facebook. Have fun applying for unemployment. Sincerely, ‘cooperative in class.’” was posted at 5:54 p.m. on Tuesday night.
From there, word of Munroe’s blog spread via Facebook and Twitter.
Written from a more neutral perspective, a second article discusses the defendant's reaction to her undergoing investigation:
"My students are out of control," Munroe, who has taught 10th, 11th and 12th grades, wrote in one post. "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."
And in another post, Munroe — who is more than eight months pregnant — quotes from the musical "Bye Bye Birdie": "Kids! They are disobedient, disrespectful oafs. Noisy, crazy, sloppy, lazy LOAFERS."
So, what do I think about all this???? Well, for one, I think it's a damn good thing I'm no longer teaching, or I'd be the next one removed.
In my honest opinion as a former student and educator, as well as a private citizen, the teacher made a 'ballsy' move. That being said, so freakin' what???
Blogs are personal. They serve a variety of purposes; in this situation, it was an outlet for an individual to vent. That is not illegal, and as far as I'm concerned, the situation violates the right to free speech.
The teacher is not 'friends' with her students. Her blog was not a teaching tool, nor was she inviting students to interact through that forum. It was her personal intellectual property, designed by an adult for adult friends and family. THEY discovered her. Why? Well, it seems they didn't like her much, so they went digging. We've all done it; when kids don't like a situation at school, they feel they have the right to set out and 'fix it' themselves. In this case, they didn't care for Ms. Munroe's brutally honest analysis, so they took matters into their own hands.
No names were published. The district was never revealed, and no information that could undoubtedly link Munroe's comments to specific people was provided. The investigation took care of that, but not the author herself. So, whether you agree or disagree with her words, no crime was committed.
And that is the essence of the controversy - whether or not you AGREE or CARE FOR what was done, is it worthy of termination? The lawyers don't seem to think so, and I'm pretty sure I agree.
I taught in a similar district. Our clientele was comparable, as was the organization and structure of the surrounding community. The population was composed of the same socio-economic status, and for these reasons, I happen to understand the root of Ms. Munroe's frustration.
The reality is, many of today's teenagers don't want to do anything. And, when you ask or expect them to do something, they whine. They whine and complain and question your motives. Their goal is to make you feel insecure; to force you to question your professional judgment and alter your assignment or policy or grading system so that, essentially, they can jump through more hoops with ease. In other words, they can get a higher grade with little effort. Nine times out of ten, the kids will win.
It's about time someone called unmotivated kids out! I'm not sure this was the bet forum to choose in doing so, but again, her comments were vague. It takes a certain teacher to maintain high expectations. In a world where administrators are afraid of parents and never back the teachers - a world where parents feel they have the right to speak to teachers in disrespectful tones, tones that, if we were to use in the classroom, would result in our immediate dismissal - teachers are clearly the underdog. And GOOD teachers have become a communicable disease.
I'm going to wrap up for today, though I anticipate I'll be exploring this issue further throughout the week. In closing, let me just say this: Ms. Munroe may have struck a nerve with many people. Nerves tend to get 'struck' when people offer a dose of reality. You don't have to like it. You don't have to agree with it. But, no laws were violated.
Ms. Munroe is guilty of one thing - seeking a creative outlet to reveal her frustration. Sometimes, we have to let it out. The reality is, she is a person first, a concept many fail to consider where educators are concerned. As a person, she has the right to blog. She has the right to be controversial and offensive if she wants to be - as long as no student or district information is revealed.
It wasn't. Case closed. Suck it up; move on.
AS always, comments are welcomed, but please BE RESPECTFUL! Please respect my opinion if you expect me to respect yours.
ADDENDUM: I want to add that, during my teaching career, the kids were truly the best part of the day. In fact, 99% were wonderful and I remain in contact with many to this day. Sure, I had moments of frustration. No, I didn't go airing it on the Internet. We ALL make mistakes and handle situations in ways we have not. Let's be honest, everything posted on the blog in question can be heard every Friday when groups of teachers hit Happy Hour - and considering how close this often occurs to the district, I find that to be just as risky. The point is, should this situation be used against the teacher? There are a number of teachers who have done things just as mean - just maybe not on the Internet.