Teacher suspended for dissing students

The young English teachers’ students were “rude, disengaged, lazy whiners,” she wrote on her blog. But 30-year-old Natalie Munroe wants to keep teaching the unmotivated brats at a suburban Philadelphia high school. She was suspended with pay after students found her blog, which did not identify the school or students but called her “Natalie M.”

“My students are out of control,” Munroe, who has taught 10th, 11th and 12th grades, wrote in one post. . . . ” They curse, discuss drugs, talk back, argue for grades, complain about everything, fancy themselves entitled to whatever they desire, and are just generally annoying.”

And in another post, Munroe — who is more than eight months pregnant — writes: “Kids! They are disobedient, disrespectful oafs. Noisy, crazy, sloppy, lazy LOAFERS.” She also comes up with a colorful list of comments that she felt should be available on student report cards.

“Parents are more trying to be their kids’ friends and less trying to be their parent,” Munroe told AP. “They want everything right now. They want it yesterday.”

A former student, now in college, Jeff Shoolbraid told AP that much of what Munroe said was true and that she had a right to voice her opinion. But she’s not fit to be a teacher, he said in an e-mail.

 “I just thought it was completely inappropriate. As far as motivated high school students, she’s completely correct. High school kids don’t want to do anything. .. It’s a teacher’s job, however, to give students the motivation to learn.”

And what is the student’s job?

The comments were “tongue in cheek” caricatures of students, Munroe told ABC News. Apparently, she made the rookie error of thinking that only her friends would read the blog. Now she’s hired a lawyer to defend her free-speech rights — the school has no online policy for teachers — and demand her job back. I suspect she’ll be accaused of violating the “professionalism” clause in her contract, but I can’t predict how the case will play out.

Many teacher bloggers criticize students’ motivation and work ethic. Some fantasize about what they’d like to say to parents. Few teacher bloggers write only about their frustrations, but I’ve run across some very frustrated people out there.

I’d hate to see teacher bloggers feel constrained to write only happy talk. But it’s wise to assume  your students, their parents, your colleagues and administrators will find your blog eventually.

Update: Natalie Munroe’s new blog is here.

Ed Week’s Teacher has a forum here.

British teacher speaks out

A British teacher who criticized “dumbed-down” education standards at a Conservative Party conference is back in school this week. Katharine Birbalsingh, 37, was ordered to stay home on Thursday or Friday. A French teacher for 10 years in London schools, she started this term as deputy head of a South London school rated “inadequate.”

In her speech on Tuesday, Miss Birbalsingh told delegates of a “broken” system which “keeps poor children poor”.

I thought her views sounded familiar. Sure enough, Birbalsingh is Snuffy, who blogged as To Miss with Love. In the blog, she wrote about low expectations, disorder and teachers’ struggle with bureaucracy.

Miss Birbalsingh says she has watched in silent horror, over more than a decade in teaching, as good teachers were ordered to follow bad rules, schools colluded with the folly of inspectors to win coveted ratings and classrooms were allowed to deteriorate into war zones.

. . . “Teachers are too scared to speak out because they think they are going to lose their job. And indeed, I gave a five minute speech and said a few home truths, and that has resulted in me being sent home from work.

Birbalsingh, who is Indian-Guyanese on her father’s side and Jamaican on her mother’s side, charges that discipline is poor because teachers “fear being labelled racist if they attempt to tackle bad behaviour by black pupils.”

* Britain’s state education system is an “international disgrace” which is incapable of reaching the “absurdly low” target of pupils achieving five grade Cs at GCSE.

* Mixed ability teaching, where bright students are taught alongside the less able, is “insane” because it means no pupils can receive the teaching they require.

* Ofsted’s inspection criteria are so skewed and prescriptive, they can lead to great and inspirational teachers being labelled as underperforming.

* The fashion for “group teaching” in some schools prevents teachers setting out classroom desks in traditional rows, forcing them to be arranged in groups so pupils can work in pairs or teams.

Educators make excuses for children from low-income, single-paren or black families, she charges. “This idea that because you are poor you cannot achieve is ridiculous.”

'Suited for teaching' after all

Michele Kerr, who comments here as “Cal,” has earned a master’s degree from Stanford’s Teacher Education Program (STEP), despite threats to declare her “unsuited” for teaching.  FIRE has the links.

. . . Stanford tried to revoke Kerr’s admission after she voiced disagreement with “progressive” views held by STEP administrators, but FIRE intervened and resolved the issue. Kerr also was blogging about her thoughts and experiences as a future certified teacher. Stanford School of Education administrators demanded the password to her private blog and threatened to expel her for her opinions and teaching philosophy.

Kerr was told that her problems had nothing to do with her views, that other students found her domineering and intimidating. In an e-mail, she told classmates that “you are all fantastic, passionate, committed people who I think will make outstanding teachers.” But:

. . . if you are sitting in class privately seething because you feel that I or anyone else is derailing a conversation that you wish to go in a different direction, then you should reconsider your own priorities and values as a novice educator.  SPEAK UP.

Fight for the education you want. And if you don’t feel you should have to, if you’d rather complain to the powers-that-be in the hopes that the power will take care of an interpersonal problem, then how on earth are you planning on going out in the far more ruthless world of public education and effect any change worth mentioning?

She was told the e-mail was “intimidating” in itself.

WashPost columnist Jay Mathews, often a target of Kerr’s caustic comments, wonders why academics can’t tolerate independent thinkers.

Though the education school has no blogging policy, Kerr was reprimanded for her blog, which mentioned Stanford but not the high school where she was student teaching.  She “took down the blog temporarily, renamed it, eliminated all references to Stanford, and gave it password protection so that only she and a few friends could read it,” Mathews writes. That didn’t help.

After filing a complaint, Kerr got a new supervisor with whom she got along very well. She completed the program and was hired by a high school in the area to teach algebra, geometry and humanities.