Take 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