Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What Would You Do? – this is likely to stir some controversy.

Maybe you have seen this, maybe you have not.

When I saw it was I was appalled about how some people can react to things that are so common in reality and we need to recognize where changes need to be made.

Natalie Munroe is was a high school teacher in Pennsylvania.  She is currently suspended for a blog post that she wrote regarding kids in school and grade cards.  She teaches 10th, 11th and 12th graders.  Let’s face it, I have a teenager and I know how trying and uncooperative these creatures can be at times!  Fortunately my daughter better remain is a straight A student but if she was not, I would want to know if she was acting like this at school.  I guess I am in the minority when I say I would not blame the school or the teacher.  It would be my kid that gets reprimanded for her actions!

Here is her original post.  It has since been removed from the blog but you can still find it in the Google cache.  I’m being a daredevil and posting it for you now.  Only because I wholeheartedly agree with it! (Beware – there is some foul language).

I’m being a renegade right now, living on the edge and, um, blogging AT work.
However, as I’m blogging about work stuff, I give myself a free pass of conscience.

I’m in the process of entering grades, and also need to enter comments for the grades. I used to take a lot of time with this procedure, choosing just the right comment(s) for my students. If I put a negative one, I’d also put a positive one to temper it. (When I was in school, I hated when I got the same 2 or 3 comments from my teachers. It felt so insincere.)

(For the record, my computer froze and had to be shut down at work; when I rebooted, I didn’t bother signing back on to finish this as other things to do came up. At present, then, I’m not being a renegade at all, as I’m writing this at my kitchen table.)

Anyway, as I was saying, when I was first teaching, I put a lot of time and effort into the comments because I felt it was a great way to communicate the students’ efforts. Then it got to be a complete pain in the ass, just one more thing standing between me and being done the report cards, and suddenly I realized why I’d always gotten the same comments from my teachers: they didn’t want to do them any more than I do. (I refuse to believe the alternative reason that I’ll explore momentarily.)

Also, as the kids get worse and worse, I find that the canned comments don’t accurately express my true sentiments about them. So now I pretty much choose “Cooperative in Class” for every kid (or, in some instances, will speak in other codes. For instance, if they talk a lot, I’ll put “is easily distracted” or “talks persistently”; if it’s a kid that has no personality, I’ll put “ability to work independently”). For some kids, though, my scornful feelings reach such fever pitch that I have a hard time even putting “cooperative in class” and have, sadly, had some kids for which none of the comments fit. (Again, this was NOT me. It couldn’t have been. I was a delight!!)

Thus, for this blog, I will list the comments I’d like to see added to the canned comment list, as an accurate reflection of what we really want to say to these parents. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Concerned your kid is automaton, as she just sits there emotionless for an entire 90 minutes, staring into the abyss, never volunteering to speak or do anything.
  • Seems smarter than she actually is.
  • Has a massive chip on her shoulder.
  • Too smart for her own good and refuses to play the school ‘game’ such that she’ll never live up to her true potential here.
  • Has no business being in Honors.
  • A complete and utter jerk in all ways. Although academically ok, your child has no other redeeming qualities.
  • Lazy.
  • Shy isn’t cute in 11th grade; it’s annoying. Must learn to advocate for himself instead of having Mommy do it.
  • One of the few students I can abide this semester!
  • Two words come to mind: brown AND nose.
  • Dunderhead.
  • Complainer.
  • Gimme an A. I. R. H. E. A. D. What’s that spell? Your kid!
  • There is such a thing as too loud in oral presentations. We shouldn’t need earplugs.
  • Att-i-tude!
  • Nowhere near as good as her sibling. Are you sure they’re related?
  • I won’t even remember her name next semester if I see her in the hall.
  • Asked too many questions and took too long to ask them. The bell means it’s time to leave!
  • Has no business being in Academic.
  • Rat-like.
  • Lazy asshole.
  • Just as bad as his sibling. Don’t you know how to raise kids?
  • Sneaky, complaining, jerkoff.
  • Frightfully dim.
  • Dresses like a street walker.
  • Whiny, simpering grade-grubber with an unrealistically high perception of own ability level.
  • One of the most annoying students I’ve had the displeasure of being locked in a room with for an extended time.
  • Rude, beligerent, argumentative fuck.
  • Tactless.
  • Weirdest kid I’ve ever met.
  • Am concerned that your kid is going to come in one day and open fire on the school. (Wish I was kidding.)
  • I didn’t realize one person could have this many problems.
  • Your daughter is royalty. (The Queen of Drama)
  • Liar and cheater.
  • Unable to think for himself.
  • I hear the trash company is hiring…
  • Utterly loathsome in all imaginable ways.
  • I called out sick a couple of days just to avoid your son.
  • There’s no other way to say this: I hate your kid.

These comments, I think, would serve me well when filling out the cards. Only, I don’t think parents want to hear these truths.

Thus, the old addage… if you don’t have anything nice to say…
…say “cooperative in class.”

Now having read that, you must read her most current post in response to her suspension.  HERE is the link to her blog.

Bloggate- Day 1: The Scandal Begins

When I woke up Wednesday morning and went to work, I certainly couldn't have foreseen what my day--and, in turn, the rest of my life--would be like from that point.
My alarm rang as normal and I hit snooze as normal. I dressed; ate breakfast (the most important meal of the day!); chatted with a friend during my drive to work; performed my requisite morning duty as lunch-room monitor whereby I'm supposed to "check for sticky fingers"--the thieving kind, not the danish-eating kind--in the food purchase area and make sure kids clean up after themselves in the dining area; and headed up to the planning center to start the day. All as normal.
But then a colleague pulled me aside to tell me that students had somehow found my blog and were all abuzz and up in arms about how I'd cursed and said negative things about students in it. The colleague wanted me to know in case it became a bigger deal.
I didn't realize, however, that it already WAS a big deal.
Within the hour, I was in a meeting with the principal who had a pile of my blogs printed out and sitting before him. Within the next 15 minutes, I was gathering my bags from my office and being escorted from the building.
I realize that maybe this escort out is standard protocol when someone is suspended from her duties, but I had to bite my tongue to keep myself from remarking to the stone-faced principal, "Um, I assure you, you don't need to walk me to the door. My 8.5 month pregnant self is hardly going to freak out on my waddle out of here!" At one point, it was a Natalie sandwich--the principal, giant melon me, followed by the school security guard. Yes, I was quite the threatening figure there. I'm sure it was supposed to be a walk of shame, but I couldn't help but feel it was over-the-top ridiculous under the circumstances. Were they concerned I would cause a scene as I left? Steal some school materials? Graffiti the walls with a parting message? At worst, I may have stopped to use the bathroom--at this point, I can pretty much always pee.
But that was that. I walked out into the morning light and drove back to my house around 9am, still unaware of quite the degree to which this blog had gotten out there.
Around 2 pm, the first reporter showed up at my house. That is when I started to feel violated. We had to pull our drapes so they couldn't peer into the house. My 3-year-old daughter was confused as to the hullabaloo surrounding her. I told her people wanted to take my picture but I didn't want them to. (I didn't know until a couple of hours later that they already had my picture from the blog cache.) I was a big story on the news that night--after the butt injection situation and among some Lindsay felony-theft news. (A shout-out to Lindsay here for trying to keep me out of the limelight, but felony theft ain't what it used to be, particularly when there are more juicy local scandals around town.) Around dinnertime, the second reporter showed up. The calls trickled in most of the day. It was bizarre that I was getting this much attention over something so mundane.
See, what I'd done was written a casual blog. I talked about everything--such exciting topics as our trip to Sesame Place, my favorite (and least favorite) restaurants, my work experiences, the diaper genie. I had 9 followers--2 of whom were my husband and myself, the other 7 were friends. When I started it, my goal was to write 1-3 times a week, though I didn't usually have time to do it that much. I ended up writing 84 blogs between 8/9/09 and 11/25/10. (I remember that, at one point, my track of blogging was about equal with my gym-going, but my gym-going eventually surpassed my blog track. I went there religiously at least 3 times a week until my morning sickness started...) I slowed down at the end, writing only about 10 blogs between June and November. I was too busy with being pregnant, teaching a new curriculum, and being harassed at school to write anything between November and February.
When I wrote, I kept things as anonymous as possible; I know there are crazies out there and I didn't want anyone trying to track me down. I blogged as "Natalie M" and had no location information or email address or anything listed or accessible. Nor did I ever mention where I worked or the names of students. Yet, there's this perception that I was trying to lambaste everyone in the school without heed. That's bollocks.
What bothers me so much about this situation is that what I wrote is being taken out of context. Of my 84 blogs, 60 of them had absolutely nothing to do with school or work. Of the 24 that mentioned it, only some of them were actually focused on it--others may have mentioned it in passing, like if I was listing things that annoyed me that day and wrote without any elaboration that students were annoying that day.
In essence, people are latching onto pieces of what I wrote without A. knowing any back story, and B. knowing the whole story. The student or parents who took it upon themselves to dig up my blog--and be assured that that is what happened, as they were looking for it and didn't just stumble upon it--are the ones who started this fracas, and they also made sure that only pieces of the whole picture came to light. I'm sure the media helped with that second part, too. After all, a juicy story is more exciting to the masses.
In the now-infamous blog that is circulating across the nation, one of the oft-quoted lines is: "I'm being a renegade right now, living on the edge and, um, blogging AT work. However, as I'm blogging about work stuff, I give myself a free pass of conscience." At least one newspaper reports that the timestamp on the post was 9:01 am on a Thursday. What was conspicuously cut out of the story--and what nobody seems to feel like focusing on or even acknowledging--is the paragraph that followed it and said, "For the record, my computer froze and had to be shut down at work; when I rebooted, I didn't bother signing back on to finish this as other things to do came up. At present, then, I'm not being a renegade at all, as I'm writing this at my kitchen table." I actually wrote and posted that blog from home after 7pm. My archived blog time log records the time the post actually went live.
Furthermore, regarding my discussion of comments I'd like to make on report cards, those, too, are somewhat misunderstood. At report card time, we are obliged to add a comment to supplement and/or expand on the letter grades. We are strongly encouraged to use the "canned comments" option, which have a limited number of comments from which teachers may choose to explain students. However, much like options on those magazine quizzes where you sit there scratching your head and mumbling, "Well, I'm a little bit A, but somewhat D, too... um, I wonder what I should pick," some of the options don't work for some of the kids. Some of the students don't fit within the canned comments. And none of them allow teachers to truly reflect any sort of behavior or academic deficiency in any truly negative way. Examples of canned comments are: "cooperative in class," "achieving at ability level," "needs to complete homework," "needs to increase study time," "doesn't take advantage of second chance learning." So I took the opportunity for myself and the possible amusement of my friends--since I was content and expected for everything to stay low-key with only my 7 pals reading my ramblings--to list those real behaviors that exist but that you just aren't allowed to write. (Parents don't want to hear the truth; administrators don't want us to share the truth.) But regardless, they weren't comments meant to fit all students, and nor were they even for every student I wrote "cooperative in class" about--I was just being pithy when I made that joke.
Contrary to what seems to be popular belief, I didn't--and don't--feel negatively toward all students. As I mentioned in another blog that nobody chooses to talk about, there were delightful students in school, too. I fondly discussed some wonderful students who shined in the school's Jazz and Poetry Festival, and I even said that I was proud to be part of the school at events like that.
But the fact remains that every year, more and more, students are coming in less willing to work, to think, to cooperate. These are the students I was complaining about in my blog. The same way millions of Americans go home at the end of the day and complain about select coworkers or clients or other jerks they had to deal with, I came home and complained on my blog about those I had to deal with.
When my boss makes a general comment about something at a faculty meeting that is pointed at certain individuals but not all of us, I don't sit there and think, "I can't believe he said that about me!" I know if it's directed at me or not. I ask myself, "Are these things that I do? No? Then it must be for someone else." I think that most people are probably the same way. In fact, if people have a lack of self-perception, I'd bet they'd err on the side of thinking things are NOT being directed at them. S0 if these students or their parents (again, one of either group who felt the need to dig up year-old blog postings) see my comments and identify themselves or their kids with things they read, that, to me, indicates a problem within themselves. It feels like they're projecting their personal issues onto me. The truth hurts sometimes. Maybe instead of getting pissed off at the person pointing out the behavior, people need to examine their behavior and make a change. Better to know now before the Ghost of Christmas Future shows up.
In reading some of the posts my most angry objectors have written, I've read that I must not have been doing a good job because I couldn't possibly separate my feelings for some of the students from my work. Someone said I must be doing the minimum. That is absolutely not the case. If you read my blogs, you'd have read account after account of the preparatory work I did for lessons. You'd have read about the new lessons and units I'd created to help my students achieve success. I was not shirking my duties in or out of the classroom, regardless of the frustration I felt as a result of the disrespect and disengagement I was living through so often in the classroom. I am a professional and take pride in my work. I am perfectly capable of separating my personal feelings about some of the people I have to work with from the work I accomplish. In that way, I'm also like millions of people around the world; at some point, we all have to work with someone we don't like. But we do it anyway, get the job done, and move along. That's how life works. To suggest otherwise is ridiculous.
As I went to bed Wednesday night, things were about 100% the opposite of 'normal.' As I fell asleep, I couldn't help feeling how surreal the day had been. While I never in a million years would have guessed that this many people would ever see my words, and I didn't even intend them to, I stand by what I wrote and think it's good that people are aware now. There are serious problems with our education system today--with the way that schools and school districts and students and parents take teachers who enter the education field full of life and hope and a desire to change the world and positively impact kids, and beat the life out of them and villanize them and blame them for everything--and those need to be brought to light. If this 'scandal' opens the door for that conversation, so be it.
Let that conversation begin. Stay tuned here.

Interesting to say the least.

I wish I could show you the comment i left on her blog, but since she has to approve it, it doesn’t show yet.  I totally understand why she would want to approve it. I am sure she is being bombarded with people that are bashing her character and trying to destroy her career.  I think that the blogging world is a place where you can express your right for Free Speech!  There are sooooooo many things out there that I can be offended at, but as a *logical* person you need to take it for what it is worth.  If it pertains to you, then maybe you need to make some positive changes.  If it doesn’t, read it for enjoyment and move on!  She did not attack any “one” person in her both.  I simply believe she was venting and let’s face it – we all NEED to do that every now and then.

What do you think?


Debbie said...

Oh Beth--you and I are so much alike in some ways it is scary.
This teacher did not bash any particular student. And she happens to be right on some of her points. Kids are more lazy now. Parents maybe are so defensive because they are scared that they are the reason their kid is the way he/she is. Not that that is a blanket statement. Each and every individual case is different.
It is sad that this teacher is now being thrown under the bus for HER blog. Thank you for posting this.

AmyM said...

Thank you for posting this. After reading the article in the "news" about her blog and her posts, I was interested to read the true story, with all of the facts. I found her blog from the 12th of Feb. but couldn't find the original posts which got her into trouble in first place. I am disappointed with the parents, the school, with the district, and particularly with the press for their inability to report the entire story and just picking out the "juicy" nuggets. I feel comfortable commenting on this story because I was a high school teacher for five years and finally just gave up. There were many students, and many moments, that I will always treasure. But the good did NOT outweigh the bad, and I can agree 100% with Natalie's assessment that these comments could apply to almost any high school student in almost any area in the United States (and who knows, probably elsewhere as well). I, for one, support Natalie's First Amendment right to express herself on her blog - no names were used, no locations. Those parents should worry less about what a teacher vents over in her harmless blog and more about their parenting skills. The parents, the school administrators, the district, and the press should all be ashamed.

Kristin said...

I had not heard about this, but WOW! I have to remember that when I write something, even this comment, it's out there for anyone to read. However, this is my venting, it's my chance to say what I want to say. She shouldn't have been blasted for that. I guarantee that she is not the only teacher who feels this way, and that most of them bitch in the breakroom about specific students, naming them even. Ugh, it's sad that she getting this much controversy. Thanks for sharing this.

Alisa said...

I would have to respectfully disagree. I don't think that she can expect to post her feelings in a public location and expect no repercussions from it.

We are blessed to live in country where we can express our feelings publicly, but with that comes some responsibility for our actions. Just as she had the right to say what she wanted, the school has the right to suspend her for her actions.

I don't think the place to vent is online where anyone and everyone {including the kids she is talking about} can read it. I think it is unfortunate that we have come to the point where we feel we can say anything we want publicly without taking into consideration others feelings. While I recognize she didn't name any student by name, it really doesn't make it any better. It also doesn't make it any better that other teachers say or feel the same way. "Two wrongs don't make a right" as I always tell my kids.

Unfortunately, I think she should have chosen a non-puplic form to vent her frustrations.