Teacher Calls Herself 'Warden' of 'Future Criminals': Is She Wrong?


criminal fingerprintingTake a look at a classroom full of little kids. Can you guess who will be most likely to succeed? Who will turn to drugs? Who will run a Fortune 500 company by age 25? I'm willing to bet you could make some guesses, but half of them would be proven wrong in 20 years.

So the story of Jennifer Schmid O'Brien, a first grade teacher who complained on her Facebook that she's a "warden" overseeing "future criminals," didn't make me angry. It made me laugh.

This being America, she's got to be right about at least one of those kids. And if a look at my senior yearbook says anything, it could be ANY one of them. Because even in the senior year -- a full 11 years older than O'Brien's class of little monsters -- a host of our votes for the "senior superlatives" were way off.

But parents in O'Brien's district aren't laughing. Nor are administrators who have put her on paid leave while they figure out how to hang her for having a personal opinion on personal time, and one that may not even be all that wrong.

Hey, I know it's tough to parse out the difference. We just faced a teacher who posted a kid's photo on Facebook and joined her friends in making fun of the little girl's silly hairstyle. That was a problem because it was personal. She took a specific student, singled her out, and made her the butt of her jokes.

But O'Brien didn't say one student or another was a problem. I feel like I have to say this at least once a week, but since no one's getting it, here it is again. Teachers are people too. They have personal opinions. They can hate our kids. They can find our kids objectionable. As long as they don't do it in the classroom, or pick out one student and harass them in some way (like posting their photo to Facebook), they reserve the right to their own personal opinion. You may LOVE your kid, but look around at their friends, and tell me you adore them all. Really?

I've been a parent for 5 1/2 years, and it hasn't made me love all children equally. At the end of the day, not all kids are nice people. They may change at some point and turn out to be sweet as pie ... or their bratty childhood natures may be signs of the odious adult they will be one day. Out of a class of 25, one probably will be arrested one day. It's the law of probability mixed with human nature. 

So O'Brien may be right on the money with her description when it comes to some of those kids. And if she's not, she can still THINK that way. I liken O'Brien's case to that of Natalie Munro, the teacher who blogged anonymously about how much she hated certain, again unnamed, students. She never used anyone's name or photograph. She kept her complaints vague. In fact, all she did was complain about her job. The same thing I see day in and day out on Facebook, from secretaries, company presidents, and yes, teachers. As long as their "out-of-work" opinions don't affect their "on-the-job" activities, that's their right.

When are we going to start treating teachers like human beings too?


Image via Exercise Tradewinds 2009/Flickr

discipline, education


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Jenni... JenniferDawyn

I don't FB or blog about work.  Ever.  I wish others would do the same.  :)

jpfsmom jpfsmom

I think it's funny and sadly I think she's right. When my husband was a teacher in MA. Five students egged his car...of those five students (who's parents balked at the principal because he wanted to press charges for what they said was a harmless prank) two ended up in jail (one armed robbery and the other drug related) one wound up dead of a heroin overdose, one a teen dad and alcoholic who doesn't work and the other one manage to learn from his mistakes and became a carpenter (he was also the most apologetic when caught). Just because we think our kids are perfect angels doesn't mean they always are and god forbid someone calls them out on it suddenly that person becomes the villian...crazy

PonyC... PonyChaser

I am totally with the teachers being able to express their opinions. Having taught/tutored privately and in a classroom, I get the frustration and the need to vent. But you should never post anything about work, or even personally, that can come back to bite you.

FB, as much as we like to pretend that it's private, even with all of our settings "locked down" and set to "so private even I need permission to view this"... it's not. Our "friends" - some of whom we haven't seen in a hundred years, and others that we just met two days ago - can see everything there, can copy it, and use it against us.

So when it comes to ranting about work, why can't we stick to generic stuff, like, "wow, had a tough day at work. Teaching can be such a challenge sometimes"?  Other teachers will know EXACTLY what you're referring to, but nothing in that statement is untrue, abusive, or would approach grounds even for questioning, let alone suspension or firing.

We've come to this place, a very narcissistic one, where we think that everybody needs to know every thought that pops into our brain, and we've learned to disengage the filter that this stuff used to pass through. Would you write a statement about your students being jail-bound in the newspaper to be published, distributed, and entered in the archives? No, that would be stupid. FB is the same thing.

jpfsmom jpfsmom

I'm incline to agree with you Ponychaser, nothing bugs me more than people that divulge every sordid detail of their life whether it be a pending divorce or dissatisfaction with their job. My husband doesn't even mention his frustration with teaching in his updates but personally I think her statement was tongue in cheek, one could say she was referring to the kids in her nerighborhood or even her own kids or her relative's kids...really there is no proof she was talking about her students, simply stating "warden of future crimminals" sometimes I feel that way with a trip to Walmart. It's a vague statement. Now the teacher that posted candies in her hair, to me that cross the line...

PonyC... PonyChaser

I always stop before posting to my FB. I have a lot of true friends on there - people I've kept in touch with over the years, new friends, etc. There's nobody on there that I don't actually know, face-to-face. But I STILL pause, and think, "how is someone else going to interpret this?"  Because I've had situations where people have put things up that are supposed to be a joke, and they've been very hurtful.

Until they invent a Sarcasm Key (and when are they going to do that, I'd like to know!!!), I'll stick with "the appearance of impropriety" idea... if it *might* be questionable, then it probably is, and it shouldn't be posted.

PoeDu... PoeDunkMae

I think the teachers comment was harmless.  I have 3 kids and I feel the same way myself some days! My kids aren't perfect, no kid is (regardless of what the parents MIGHT think sometimes).  She didn't single anyone out, she was pretty vague she really could have been talking about any kids (she just HAPPENS to be a teacher so people assumed she was talking about the kids).  And I've seen how first graders can act these days!  Gone are the days of innocent little lower elementary kids.  Now days those little kids CAN be as rotten as the older kids! It's awful.  Some parents don't bother to teach their kids any kind of respect or manners then send that kid off to school.  So if a teacher has 20 kids in her class, and like 15 of them are as rude as can be....that would get on a person's nerves quickly I'm sure!

Antho... Anthonys_mommy1

that happened in my town. It's so sad when people think this way

mmtos... mmtosam06

Thats sad what if she was reffering to her own kids not the students or what if it was relatives kids or the neighbors kids seriously those parents need to back off because it was a tongue in cheek comment


_elle... _elle_vee_

Sorry, I disagree. I believe it was extremely inappropriate and sad for her to even feel that way about her students. It was completely unprofessional for a teacher to post something so arbitrary on her Facebook page about first graders, personal statement or not. Disgusting.

Crystal Letchford Hutchinson

bullocks. this woman was on her own time, doing what most of us do -- venting.  lighten up America. there are far worse things to be said.

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