Natalie Munroe, you’re killing me…

I’m sure it comes off as a broken record, but I’m a free speech kind of guy. That being said, Natalie Munroe, what in the world were you thinking?? There is such a thing as tact (and I’ll freely admit that I haven’t always exercised a tremendous display of this – cue laughter from some colleagues).

Natalie Munroe is the teacher who was suspended with pay for recently being discovered as the creator of a blog that was critical of students and parents in the Central Bucks East School District. She never referred to students by name and never identified herself beyond Natalie M. (although she did post a picture of herself on the site as well). The title of her site is/was “Where are we going and why are we in this handbasket? and while she shut it down, the cached version of her response can be found here.

I don’t doubt that anybody in the field of education has had their fair share of students and parents and co-workers who have caused all kinds of frustration. Heck, I think you’d be hard pressed to find any field that doesn’t have these frustrations. But to post in your blog the types of things that Munroe did concerning her students and parents? Well, that’s just stupid. Yeah, you might get a chuckle out of these things, but c’mon, putting these things out there was idiotic.

This might not seem to be as easy as some would make it out to be. Yes, there are elements of the First Amendment at play here, but teachers also have things known as morality clauses in our contracts. Defining morality is a slippery slope, but I can understand those who say she’s violated her contract by doing what she’s done.

Munroe has said that she did this to share her frustrations with her family and friends. If this were truly the case, then she should have locked this down as much as absolutely possible and made it accessible to only these people. I get it, I’ve certainly vented at times – a lot, at times. But again, this just isn’t something that should be made public – and if she didn’t understand just how public this would go before, well, I’d guess she completely understands it at this point. To think that anything you post on the internet at this point is completely private is unbelievably naive.

I do believe that as teachers, we also have to take responsibility in trying to alter the objectionable behaviors. I’m not saying this to excuse the behaviors – but there are times that we need to look at ourselves as well. Have I set up a classroom environment that enables this type of behavior? Am I properly structuring my lessons in a manner that engages the students who are causing the problems? Am I seeking the advice of others? Have I contacted the parents in the attempt to get some help from home with these issues? Without being in her shoes (actually, in her classroom), it’s difficult to truly get a feel for the entire issue.

There is one thing that I do believe Ms. Munroe has nailed: “There are serious problems with our education system today,” she wrote. “If this ‘scandal’ opens the door for that conversation, so be it.” She doesn’t want to be the martyr and she shouldn’t be – but if this gets people talking – and working to improve the situation – then so be it.  If nothing else, perhaps this will truly get the conversation going even more.

For the record, I can understand the “lazy” and “loafers” sentiment. But I see this all around me, every single day in more than just students – and I am absolutely certain that I was looked at in this same light by my dad and his dad. This tends to be the way of the world. These weren’t the truly objectionable comments, though. And if you stuck with just the mainstream media this week, then perhaps this was all you thought she had said.

As a person who works with students by teaching a Mass Media class, I think it’s been interesting to see just how the media has been handling this “case.” Overwhelmingly, I think the media has been too soft on Munroe – the vast majority of the stories I’ve read have stopped short of printing the truly objectionable pieces (note: this has changed as the story has progressed). I always thought the idea was to present the whole story and allowing the reader to determine an opinion. Call me old-fashioned, I guess.

It’s an interesting topic, to say the least. In this day and age of teacher bashing, while Munroe may have had the right to say what she did, she didn’t exercise proper caution, digital literacy and tact in doing so. The conversation that truly needs to happen, in my opinion, is one in which we are able to get everybody back on the same page concerning what we need to see happening in our educational system.

We need for everybody to get on board and realizae that we can’t truly be successful if we aren’t working toward the same goal – which must be increased student achievement. This means we need to establish high expectations and standards out of all of us – administrators, teachers, students and parents. We need community support; we need school board members who drive their decisions based upon what’s best for all students, not an agenda they had to get them elected; we need a long term goal.

I know that I’m getting off the topic of Natalie Munroe now, but we need the space race, so to speak. We need a sense of urgency. So what should that goal be? For my money, I think it should be a race to find the cure for cancer, but that’s another topic and another post.

Natalie Munroe, I’m pretty certain that you didn’t mean to call this attention to yourself, but it’s there. Your 15 minutes have started. Now do something with it. And if you don’t then all that you’re doing is enabling students and parents to come up with their own assessment of your abilities.

Some links if you’d like to read more:

Time Magazine: How one teacher’s angry blog sparked a viral debate about the modern classroom

AOL News: This article has the more objectionable comments that Munroe made in it