Natalie Munroe, a 30-year-old Pennsylvania high school teacher, was suspended without pay for writing an anonymous blog about her job, including statements referring to her students such as, "A complete and utter jerk in all ways," "... although academically okay your child has no other redeeming qualities," "I hear the trash company is hiring," and "There's no other way to say this, I hate your kid."
Local parents and the administration are clearly infuriated. So what? That's not a good enough reason for Munroe to have been dismissed.
They may be government employees, but public school teachers have the same rights as any other U.S. citizen. It doesn't matter that they're standing in front of a classroom, teaching your children math, science, social studies, or English. They're still entitled to their freedom of speech and self-expression.
In fact, some may say venting outside of the classroom -- even if it is online (anonymously!) -- is a MUCH healthier way to express anger and frustration than inside the classroom. Would the administration prefer she take out her frustrations by lashing out at her students in class? Perhaps they'd rather she squawked about it in the teachers' lounge -- even though that could lead to some serious staff drama. (I've heard there's quite a bit of gossip and he said/she said behavior that goes on among teachers.)
No, actually, I'm sure the school would simply prefer Munroe keep her mouth shut altogether.
A friend of mine is an Atheist activist and a public school math teacher. He's even written a book, and he maintains a blog about Atheism. He doesn't write about his students on the Atheist blog. (Although he does tweet and post totally benign and funny commentary on how moronic or funny, brilliant or ridiculous his students are. Which I also believe is no big deal.) His online work has absolutely nothing to do with his ability to be a stellar math teacher, so why are some parents in the Illinois community where he works up in arms about the fact that he writes his ideas and opinions online? Because they'd rather he just shut up and teach. It's as if some people expect teachers to just be machines without emotions, without any rights to be individuals outside of the classroom.
Granted, this is a different situation from my friend's in that Munroe actually was writing about her students, but again, it was completely anonymous.
Plus, if you really take a step back and think about it ... consider that in one posting, she called her students "out of control" and "rude, lazy, disengaged whiners," can you blame the woman? I can't. I've heard from so many of my friends and relatives who are high school teachers that teens are getting worse -- more spoiled, more ill-mannered, rude, etc. There's only so much they can do and only so many ways they can cope in the classroom. They're only human.
In response to all the brouhaha, Munroe said:
I was writing it not about anyone specific, they were caricatures of students that I've had over the years...it was meant tongue and cheek for myself and my friends, it was not for mass consumption...I'm sorry that it was taken out of context but I stand by what I said.
This is certainly not the first time a teacher has written about their life, used it as a jumping off point for thinly veiled fiction. And it shouldn't be the last. No kids were individually harmed in the making of Munroe's blog. So, why is everyone so worried? The parents and school board should really just shut up themselves, be grateful they have someone teaching their kids who has the ability to think for herself, and allow the teacher to take her annoying job back!
Image via Global X/Flickr