Teacher, Teach Thyself


Did you all hear about this teacher who had a blog and wrote nasty stuff about her students? And got caught? And is currently suspended? Yeah. From what I can tell, she liked to blog snarky stuff about her high-school students, their parents, and her fellow teachers. She was sort of anonymous in that she only used her first name but eventually a student found the blog and, of course, spread it around. The teacher maintains that she did nothing wrong and is contesting her suspension. I maintain that she has got to be a masochist if she wants to walk back into a classroom full of teenagers who have read her innermost thoughts about them. She could no more manage a classroom in her school now than I could muster up a sexual fantasy about Pat Buchanan. And as for fostering trust among her coworkers? I don’t think so.

I had about a zillion thoughts all at once when I heard this story. I mean, really? REALLY? How can there be anyone wandering around the blogosphere who doesn’t know by now that writing a disparaging public site about your job is a really bad idea? Do we have to go to Natalie Monroe’s house and sing her The Ballad of Dooce? NOTHING on the internet is private. NO ONE is anonymous (except the genius behind the @MayorEmanuel Twitter account and even that mystery will be solved one day. It’ll be my generation’s Deep Throat revelation.). If you write stuff about anyone, they will eventually read it. Just assume that before you start writing and make all subsequent decisions accordingly.

Too late for Natalie Monroe to adopt THAT little philosophy, I guess.  Her mistake. But that’s not news. People screw up and lose jobs all the time. Why should we care about one woman with an ill-advised blog? I think the thing that’s really freaking people out about her is that she’s not an adult writing about a douchey boss and wacky coworkers who steal food from the communal fridge. She’s a teacher and her chief complaints were about her students. Someone’s precious kids. How dare she suggest that kids are not perfect???????

Let me tell you a little story. When I was in third grade, I was being teased. Mercilessly. I still remember the name of the little shit who was the ringleader. Louie. He was a blonde-haired little crapweasel who thought he was funny as hell but he wasn’t. He was mean. I was the target because I was funny looking, wore glasses, picked my nose, and was precocious in the kind of way that adults love but other kids mock. And mock me they did, day in and day out. It sucked like a Dyson in a dust-storm. My mother did what any parent of a miserably bullied 8 year-old would do: she went to the school and talked to the teacher and then the principal about the situation. The first thing she asked was “Is this a case of other kids being bullies or is my kid doing something to provoke it?” The teacher and the principal were shocked. No other parent had ever asked if their kid might be part of the problem.

It is worth considering, as a parent, that sometimes your kid might be part of the problem. If you hear that a classroom is utter chaos, the teacher has abdicated control and no one is learning anything, it is worth asking if your kid may have been one of the first to start throwing spitballs. If you hear that a classmate of your kid has stopped coming to school because other kids are making her life too miserable to stand it, it’s worth considering that your kid failed to exercise proper compassion to his classmate, even if he didn’t torment her outright. If you hear about bullies in your kid’s school, troublemakers, disrupters of peace, order, and learning, and your child has not been on the receiving end of the negative behaviors, it is worth considering that your child might be handing them out. It might not feel good to have to think “Is my kid acting like a total shit? Or even a minor shit? Is my kid making his teachers wish for wine at noon? Is my kid a nice kid or is my kid on the road to being a jerk?”. It might not feel good to think it but it’s all worth considering because other people may already know, without a doubt, if your kid is a jerk and they wish you, as his parent, could see it clearly and take steps to change your kid’s course.

That’s what Natalie Monroe was writing about: the kids with real, true shortcomings. Because kids have them. And teachers see them.

Natalie Monroe’s mistake was to take her observations of the vagaries of human nature made manifest in her classroom and get snarky about it at the expense of her students. She could have written an AMAZING blog about the experience of a real teacher dealing with all the range human behavior in the laboratory of a classroom and used her observations and knowledge to say something valuable about kids. She could have found a way to educate adults about what teens are like when they’re out of sight of their parents and she could have offered good ideas for how to make the road a little easier for teachers and students alike. She could have talked about problem students, how they get that way, and what would help them. She could have talked about success stories and how to replicate them. She could have taught, not just her students, but also her readers.

But she took the cheap and easy way out and just wrote a blog to bitch about stuff. Which is fine and legit and her prerogative. But I won’t be sad if it gets her fired because, by bitching about her students in a public arena like that, she demonstrated that she lacks discretion, common sense, and respect for others. And that leaves me to wonder, how good a teacher can she be without those qualities?  Would she be able to teach a kid about being a thoughtful human being? Or is she just another bully who happened to get caught red handed?

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7 comments for “Teacher, Teach Thyself

  1. February 24, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Thanks for taking this one on, Rebekah. Kate and I just sort of made fun of the situation but you did a great job looking at the whole enchilada. You’re right to say that she just couldn’t be effective in the classroom in her same school. I think Natalie M. will end up taking an extended maternity leave to field book offers and consider if she actually wants to keep teaching. At least we’re talking about all this stuff and discourse is always good!

  2. Erica Snipes
    February 24, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Gosh, I like the way you think, and the way you write. Thank you for another wonderful post. And for the record, I think Kate and Lydia’s poking fun was amusing. We can look at this issue from more than one angle, certainly. But seriously, your last two paragraphs above…pure gold. Thanks.

  3. February 24, 2011 at 11:09 am

    I have been largely ignoring this story thinking this those involved in this issue will work it out on their own and that it does not even concern me. I was right about the first part. As a parent of kids in school, I need to keep asking the hard questions about our my own kids and helping them learn that if they aren’t part of the solution, they are part of the problem. Important life lesson that doesn’t always get learned (as demonstrated beautifully by Natalie M.).

    “She could have written an AMAZING blog about the experience of a real teacher dealing with all the range human behavior in the laboratory of a classroom and used her observations and knowledge to say something valuable about kids. She could have found a way to educate adults about what teens are like when they’re out of sight of their parents and she could have offered good ideas for how to make the road a little easier for teachers and students alike. She could have talked about problem students, how they get that way, and what would help them. She could have talked about success stories and how to replicate them. She could have taught, not just her students, but also her readers.”

    She could have been part of the solution. Thanks for pointing that out.

  4. February 24, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    As a teacher, I can appreciate her frustration and wanting a venue to vent. However, I totally agree with you…she should have taken that frustration and do what she does (assumably) best, teach other adults about being better parents of teenagers and advocates for the teachers who are trying their hardest to teach these punks. 😉

    On a side note, as much as I struggled with my fair share of knuckleheads while I was in the classroom, I learned something VERY early on in teaching. I can’t change the parents. I can only do what I can do when the kid is sitting in front of me. The kid doesn’t have positive influences at home, I became the positive influence. The kid doesn’t have one on one time with an adult at home, I found one on one time with myself or another adult for that kid. The kid doesn’t have a strong discipline system at home and therefore is running a muck at school, I create a very CLEAR, structured system for him or her to follow, set them up for success, and then show them that they can in fact function as a normal human being. 🙂

    It does us no good to bitch and moan about what we can’t change.

  5. February 24, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    I saw her on television. She is a bully.

  6. February 24, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    From what I read about her, it looks like teaching was her second choice of a career. I respect her right to free speech, but if I were her, I’d do some soul searching and find a new line of work.

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