Who I am: Chris Lehmann
What I do: Principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA (Opening 9/06).
What I did: Technology Coordinator / English Teacher / Girls Basketball Coach / Ultimate Coach at the Beacon School, a fantastic progressive public high school in Manhattan.
Email: chris [at] practicaltheory [dot] org.
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Saturday, February 19. 2011
Dear Ms. Monroe,
I read the two blog posts where you spoke about what you are now calling Bloggate. And I am concerned. I'm concerned that you are missing the point of why people are angry. And please be aware, I'm writing this letter as a teacher, a principal and a parent.
Teaching is a tough career. It demands the best of you every day. And it takes an incredible amount out of you every day. And the dark days are bad. There are days when the kids frustrate you. There are days when the work frustrates you. And there are days when the combination of the two are almost overwhelming.
But when you teach, you work in the public trust. And you have a responsibility to that.
And when you teach kids, you have a moral obligation to work to see the best in them. The kids will see themselves by what is reflected in your eyes.
You see... you don't teach English. You teach kids. Flawed, messed-up, never perfect, wonderful, amazing kids.
Every child you denigrated has something wonderful about them, even when you didn't see it.
Every child you insulted has worked hard at something, even if it wasn't on the assignment you wanted them to work hard on.
Every child you mocked has aspirations, even if they don't match up with the ones you want them to have.
Perhaps parents did go looking for your blog... have you stopped to consider why they may have?
Perhaps a parent was frustrated hearing her child come home every day talking about the English class where the teacher made it clear that she didn't like many of the kids - and trust me, the kids knew. There's no way what you wrote didn't come out in the classroom. No one is that good an actor, and teenagers are better at sussing that out than most people give them credit for.
You were unkind. More to the point, you were cruel.
You were cruel to the children that parents have entrusted to your care.
And there is no excuse for that.
And now, you are trying to argue that your act of public cruelty was somehow justified... somehow part of some larger dialogue about what is wrong with "kids today." And you don't seem to want to own that your actions have now contributed to the larger anti-teacher rhetoric that is out there today. But you must understand... nothing can possibly justify writing those things on a publicly accessible blog. How should your principal respond when a parent calls and says, "I don't want my child in class with someone who writes that?" How is a child supposed to sit in your classroom when s/he will be wondering, "What does Ms. Monroe really think of me?" And - to be completely blunt - why should students respect what you do in class when you have shown them such incredible disrespect.
We had a situation at SLA where a student wrote a teacher an email that was a frustrated and snarky email. The teacher, in a very human moment, responded sarcastically via email. It was understandable from a human moment, but it was not the way we can respond as teachers - because we're the adults.
High school kids say and do really frustrating things. They are kids. It's almost their job. They are learning how to navigate that space between being really kids and being adult. They try on adult responses. They switch back to childish responses. And through it all, they are learning from how the adults in their lives respond to their actions.
What I told that teacher then - and what I say to you now - is that once you abdicated your responsibility as the adult, you were in the wrong. What a parent has every right to say is, "I understand that my child may have done something wrong, but now I want to talk about the behavior of the teacher." Because, after all, we are the adults.
Whatever frustration, grief, anger you may have over the behavior of your students... you gave up the moral high ground to speak with authority about that when you wrote publicly in a manner that was profoundly disrespect of and demeaning to those who are in your care.
And finally, there was something else that really bothered me about your most recent two blog posts.
You never said you were sorry.
You hurt kids. There are students who are angry and hurt that a teacher would write those things about them. You hurt kids' feelings... you wrote mean and cruel things about the children in your care. You may say it was not meant to be public, but you wrote mean and cruel things about the children you teach on a public blog. And those words were found, and kids were hurt by your actions.
And you never said you were sorry.
I hope that you do some serious soul-searching over the coming days. I hope you ask yourself why you teach. I would urge you to consider that your job is not to teach English, but to teach children English... and you need to keep those kids in your class at the top of your mind. And you need to ask yourself if you can find it in your heart to care about them, to listen to them, to want to know their dreams and aspirations, even when they do not line up with your own. If you can, then you need to start with what Randy Pausch defined as a real apology. To make a real apology, you must say - and mean - the following.
Finally, I would hope that you ask yourself why you are teaching. If the answer is because you loved being an English major, I'd encourage you to find another career.
You must teach because you want to help students achieve their dreams. You must teach because you care almost as much as much about the children in your class as you do about your own children. And you must approach the job with the humility to know that what you are trying to do - to help children grow up wisely and well in an ever-more-complex world - will tax you to the limits of your being. It should - it will - demand the best of you. If you can engage in that reflection... you will understand why you must apologize deeply and profoundly to your students... because you would never want another person to hurt your students as I imagine you have hurt them. You are going to have to listen to them when they tell you how your words made them feel. And you are going to have to be open to feeling that hurt with them. This isn't the time for, "Yes, but..." It is the time to listen deeply, with an open mind and an open heart, so that you can grow... so that you might return to the classroom in a fashion that allows all members of that community to learn.
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Really well said Chris. We have to maintain a level of caring so high that dreams are possible. There are hundreds of ways to enter into debate about tough educational questions, but none of them start with hurting kids.
Chris - thank you for the words that all teachers should read, not just the teacher it was addressed to. There are too many teachers who have forgotten that they teach children and that they are the adults and have the adult responsibilities.
Teachers tend to forget how much impact they have on the daily life of a child, simply by the way we talk to them, grade their papers and judge how they are behaving in our classrooms.
Thank you for writing this piece.
I have been a high school English teacher for seven years. I have taught and helped produce an award-winning high school newspaper, where many of my students have gone on to successful careers in journalism.
I have recently become a published author.
And I couldn't agree more with you, Chris.
Well said, sir.
I am concerned that for at least the immediate future, this is what people will think of when they hear the phrase "teacher blogger", and not the reflective, introspective educators writing about policy, practice, and the profession in a million other entirely appropriate and constructive ways. As I remarked to a friend not too long ago, this may influence some folks (myself included) back into the blogging closet.
While I don't believe the CBSD is legally in a sound place to terminate her employment (though IANAL, so take that for what it's worth), I have to wonder a) how she's going to continue teaching there (or anywhere else), and b) why she would want to.
There have been instances of teachers being unfairly targeted for their online activities. I don't think this is one of them, and her attempt to retcon those blog posts by claiming it was to spark off larger discussions about the state of public education insults what little intelligence I have.
Those who know I write a blog started sending me links about Bloggate. It was sent as some sort of warning, but I found it to be an insult. While at times I question the actions of adults at my school, I never post anything that I haven't already said in the building. I would NEVER bash my students like that even on my darkest day.
Not only was I disgusted by the posts as a teacher, but as a blogger too. Ms. Monroe damaged the idea of honest dialogue about the current state of public education.
So glad for your input, because everything that is happening in education today is happening in a context of political vile against public education; and most specifically, classroom teachers.
I can not agree with you more about our responsibilities as you stated, "But when you teach, you work in the public trust. And you have a responsibility to that."
" And when you teach kids, you have a moral obligation to work to see the best in them."
However, some of what you said has been taken away from us for reasons that are distinctly part of this generations attitudes toward school, education and the only visible targets of education, teachers.
Your letter is powerful and I applaud the clarity of what you said, we do and should be as teachers.
Unfortunately, this situation has forced a series of issues nationwide from freedom of speech, to professionalism of teachers, to teachers own personal rights in public. I am not foolish enough to think of all of the backlash possible but Fox News and CNN are drawing lines as we speak and politicians are looking for ways to crush the institution that they put in this situation.
We had better "gird up our loins for action" and get ready for the fight of our lives, and for our children s future.
Sometimes I feel like one of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. We stand our ground, fight the good fight, doing our best for our fellow men and women, hoping and believing our sacrifice will not have been in vane.
Brilliantly stated, Chris. Teaching is a profession that comes with its share of frustrations from all stakeholders, but it also comes with overwhelming rewards which all come from the students we work with. I would argue that those who enter the profession to teach a subject have entered the wrong profession- teachers teach kids- curriculum is simply one tool we use to do so.
I have two educational blogs - one for my school library (06) that's a celebration of my kids, books, school, community, teachers, literacy, fun, & innovative tech! The other is my professional blog (09) where I hope to share as much as I can with other practicing educators to better our game!
Neither of those endeavors have room to say negative things about our most important customers, our sacred trust, our students! I feel I have a "calling" to teach - it's both a passion and something that I take as precious.
Being an educator is an honor & a responsibility to the public, parents, but most of all our kids. Being mean & cruel is just plain wrong! Teachers who aren't here for the right reasons bring us down & need to go work somewhere else. This is Varsity time people...we don't have room in our profession right now for JV! We need to bring it! But bring it with understanding, compassion, empathy, & enthusiasm.
Great straight talking Chris! And you were kind, too!
That's what makes you a great teacher and leader.
You are Varsity!
The Daring Librarian
ISTE Board of Directors
Thank you. May we both continue to say that "we teach kids" (not subjects) until our listeners grasp the enormity of that distinction.
One who teaches a subject loves their knowledge in that area.
One who teacher kids, loves the kids enough to help them learn.
Teaching is not a statement of "look at me."
Teaching is a question of "how may I help you?"
Teachers must earn the right to ask their students to learn with them. To do this is much more difficult and powerful than requiring kids to respect you for your knowledge.
As always, peace to you and yours.
The message of being sorry for what you do or say, even if you are "right" is a very tough lesson to teach my students. The difference between teasing and hurting is not determined by the one doing the teasing, but by the one being teased.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Monroe never learned that lesson. She has hurt a lot of people in her community. Let us assume the following:
1) She is Constitutionally protected. (I believe she is.)
2) She believed no one other than a few friends or family members would see what she wrote.
3) What she said is the truth.
This does not excuse her unwillingness to admit that she hurt people, not only the students but parents, administrators, and the other professionals she worked with. This does not excuse her unwillingness to reach out to those she hurt and ask for forgiveness. This does not excuse her position that she did nothing wrong, because when you do nothing wrong you don't hurt this many people.
When I explained the story to my wife, a pre-service teacher, her response was simply that having the right to speak your mind does not shield you from the consequences of doing so. Quite an elegant observation
I can't disagree with you on anything you've said, Chris.
However, as I recently discussed, one teacher is not the problem - it's that we're in an environment where any teacher can think that the way she describes her teaching is the way children should be taught, and that there are others who support her in that, and that those on the other side only know to attack us all in general terms.
I see this particular instance as a symptom of our larger inability to have any sort of decent discussion about what education even is, much less how to do it properly.
I tell my teachers not to post anything in a blog or an email that they would want to put on the wall for everyone to see. Parents don't keep their best kids at home and just send us the "bad" ones. Actually, there are no bad kids. They are all God's children and they are all our customers. They my have behavior or learning issues, but its the educators' job to do their best and not let there ego get in the way. I have had disturbed kids call me every name in the book in the morning and hug me in the afternoon. Somehow they figure out that I care about them. Keep up the good work and check out DrDougGreen.Com for bite size professional development.
Wonderfully insightful letter Chris. I am a Canadian Teacher who blogs but I'm not privy to the entire educational landscape in Ms. Monroe's town or state; nevertheless, i believe she is flat out of line. Like Gwyneth Jones and other, I was strongly disturbed by teacher being so public with her rant. We do need to act in the highest of standards. That said, I think the blog post exposes some realities that many readers are not mentioning. The emotional disgust toward another teacher has tinted the picture.
With no intent to defend poor behavior or even evaluate competency, I'm somewhat concerned there seems to be no due process in her district. At what point do words justify a suspension of process? Who decides what is mean or writing in poor taste and what is a breach of contract? When no specific child is named does Ms Monroe not get rights of free speech in the ' land of the free'? If everyone in public trust were held to as high a standard, I'd suggest that many Superintendents, Governors, Mayors, Judges, Sec of Defense, and even Presidents should be fired.
I also find the hypocrisy of adults who throw stones troublesome. I suspect we have all heard far worse language than Ms Monroe's from the lips of parents speaking to teachers never mind their own children. No one speaks about the the trust parents break against children when they relinquish responsibilities of child care. Society today, despite railing against public institutions, demands more and more from their teachers and less from parents. Where does the overwhelming flood of disrespect toward teachers come from? Ms. Monroe? I think not. Their are too many fabulous teachers honorably holding the public trust talked about here. I think we are missing some serious points. What about her observations? The behavior of children? There are real concerns about social standards and ethics from parents, public officials, etc. not just teachers, that influence the current generation of children. Why wouldn't a child believe the 'teacher' is the enemy? Current media paints them as the enemy. Is their a movie coming out that exposes the shine and not just the underbelly(Superman... )? What about the system that measures only a standardized portion of a child's learning yet expects teachers to serve the whole individual child? The issues are almost endless, as one reads about education reform. Many reformists focus on the teacher as the center of the problem. Like the the foot soldier is the only problem in the military?
Public trust is complex and necessary in democracies, but too often we focus in the sensational story or the flawed Ms. Monroe's of the world and miss the need for each of us to reflect and reassess. One teacher or teacher standards or even free speech is s not really the point. The story is wider and deserves less adrenalin and more empathy toward pupils AND teachers.
Chris's letter was eloquent and thoughtfully written! After some reflection, i could see many threads of discussion surface. Where does her frustration come from? Why no apparent due process or consideration of her point of view? Ms. Monroe is the witch and an opportunity for discourse and problem solving is wasted- again. From my obscured northern perspective the conversation seems to become a shouting match- rather like rude classroom Monroe so foolishly ranted about.
The 'teacher' has now become both the savior and the sinner. Like Gwyneth Jones, I passionately march forward like a man with a calling, attempting to never let the fracas pull me under, but this demands training and character akin to surviving a war. Public education in a democracy should be more pastoral are far less violent than it currently is. If education reform is to be realized, we not only need a missionary zeal for defending the public trust and teacher professionalism but also a public discourse that honors the cause in the classroom as much as the chasing of ghosts in a foreign desert.
Regards and sincere thanks to Chris and commanders! Well done! You're all varsity!
Wow! You are a wonderful writer and I agree with everything you have said here. Teachers have a duty to be supportive of students, no matter what. You are right, we work in the public trust. Natalie Monroe owes an apology to those children.
Thank you so much for writing this!
Well said Chris. Your comments brought me back to one of my pre-service classes where Professor Ron Savage asked about ten of us what we planned to teach. History, Physical Education, English, Math were our answers and he told us that we were all wrong. We were going to teach children and I never forgot that. Children first!
Your letter is a breath of fresh air. I am horrified at the positive response this incident has received. It's shameful that teachers would stand behind those rantings.
Well said, Chris.
I think there's a lot here to consider regarding the parts of teacher culture that give face to being negative about kids in any manner or venue.
Well said, Chris! As a former teacher and administrator and now a consultant, I not only agree with everything you have stated, but moreso, how you stated it! As teachers and administrators, we must be the models for our children; and they are all our children. The beautiful thing about the 21st century is that we are all connected and what we do can be seen by others. The bad thing about the 21st century is the same point! We must be aware of what we do and say. We all make mistakes and need to own up to them. That is part of the modeling process and part of being human. Your movement to the idea that an apology was not given is a critical piece here. I applaud you for making your points and doing so in a manner to be emulated! I also applaud you for doing it in a blog, because blogging can be used as an effective tool in education and we as teachers need to model it correctly!
Al Smith's response is excellent.
I have taught now for 20 years in private middle and public middle and high schools. I love what I do and I love seeing the light bulb go on as students learn. I love the excitement of everyday knowing that I am helping guide future generations towards success. The most valuable and important profession one could hope to have is the one that chose me. Therefore, much of what Mr. Lehmann wrote is beyond criticism. Teachers have tremendous repsonsibilities and therefore must show tremendous humility, restraint and care for others, putting our own needs to the back in order that our students can learn and grow. But Mr. Lehmann's open letter is too absolute and is far too idealistic when applied to the real world in which we educators work our magic.
Teachers are human beings with real emotions and reactions. Holding an expectation, simplistically presented by Mr Lehmann, that we are the adults and should behave that way, is unrealistic and to an extent disrespectful to our humanity. No question we are role models, guides, and as such have significant impact on the future of children - it is why most of us teach. It is something that we must remember everyday, and it is the reason for our powerful filter that holds our humanity in check when most other people would explode. But we are human and can never be expected to relinquish our humanity at the school house door. Mr. Lehmann pays lip-service to our humanity, but in reality seems to expect that we no longer are allowed to be human, even when we are no longer near students because he claims that it is impermissible at any time to respond to the observations we make, the frustrations we feel and the anger, disprespect, mud and vitriol that is often directed at us every day by students, parents, politicians, pundits and the larger community. This is not a defense of Ms. Munroe. What she did was something I have never even thought of doing, in words that one only thinks on the darkest of dark days. But Mr. Lehmann goes too far in his criticism, even to the point of justifying parents discounting their children's own behavior in favor of attacking the teacher.
If you want teachers to be the adults, as we definitely should be, an adult-responsible response to Natalie Munroe would be to also hold the students, parents and community responsible for helping to create an environment in which a Natalie Munroe would react in this way. She did not present what she did in the vacuum of her own mind. She reacted, albeit badly, to an environment as she perceived it. It is this environment, laid bare in the "cruel" language of Ms. Munroe that opens for us an opportunity to have a discussion about education writ large. Mr. Lehmann, you had an opportunity to explain how your school does not have an environment where a Ms. Munroe would be triggered to write what she did, but you instead chose to demand an apology.
There is something in this situation that needs to be addressed by the society at large. The proper role of each of the stake-holders in education. Mr. Lehmann, teachers teach, but in your treatise, at no point do you discuss the responsibility that students have - to learn. Learning is hard work. It requires diligence, responsibility and will result in every instance of learning, some level of failure. Failure, from which the students can then learn further. Students should not expect perfection and then react to assessments of their performance as if the assessor is wrong. Parents should not expect that everything their child does is perfection, with no room for improvement. Students should not expect that leaerning will come without effort and that effort will always produce perfection. These ideas are terribly flawed. However they are persistent in many of our students, parents and community members. Teachers have to guide students through that failure, assess and report the assessment accurately and precisely without sugarcoating everything so that every student is an honors student. The big problem is that we are now in an era when "accountability" for any failure to learn is laid exclusively at the feet of the teacher, but such the that teacher is denigrated for accurately reporting the failures. Your open letter exacerbates this situation. You fail to present the idea - the rule - that education is more than just a one-way-street. You fail to describe how not all of the responsibility is on the educational professionals - learning is the sole responsibility of the students, with the guidance of teachers, school communities, and most importantly the help of their personal adult guardians (Parents) working within the larger society. Teachers teach, parents parent, and students learn. Society must create an enviornment that values education, and values the role that adults play in the educational process, including, but not exclusively, the role of teachers. This is what has made Mr. Canada's approach in Harlem so successful on his small scale. Your treatise directs all of the responsibility at Ms. Munroe in particular, and at teachers in general. While you mention parents, it is as defenders of the students, rather than as the primary adults in children's lives who have the responsibility of sending them to school prepared to learn. This is a very narrow view of education, and will most likely perpetuate the current situation of grade inflation (see NYU study of higher ed: Academically Adrift by arum and Roksa), bashing teachers and public education, weak growth in improved learning, and continued weak skillls in the job market.
Let's see the Munroe situation as an opportunity to address the larger problems, fix education so that there will no longer be an enviornment where a Ms. Munroe feels compelled to express her vitriol.
With all due respect... there is time for that conversation. There is time to talk about the expectations put on schools, on teachers, etc... and certainly, a look through my writings will suggest that I hold students to very high expectations about their role in their own education.
I don't view Ms. Monroe's situation as the way into that conversation.
Because we don't get to take our mistakes and use them to lash out - and then be unapologetic about what you did. As you said, you have never considered writing what Ms. Monroe wrote. That is the point. You don't get to be cruel to kids and then, when you are found out, claim that you were speaking "the hard truth" that people need to hear.
Had she written a post about how she wants to see her kids work harder, take more ownership, believe in the value of her class more... and how she gets frustrated by the lack of effort she perceives from kids sometimes, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Those are valid and valuable contributions to a national educational debate.
Had she even apologized... had she said, "In a moment of my own frustration, I did something that hurt kids, and for that, I am profoundly sorry..." we wouldn't be having this conversation.
She didn't do that.
She was mean to kids. She thought no one was listening and she was mean. And now she's not willing to say "I'm sorry."
You don't get to do that. Not in my book.
When my sons are mean, my wife and I tell them to apologize - and mean it.
I expect no less from teachers.
We have real problems we are facing and many, many thoughtful people are writing, speaking, teaching every day to address them. Let's honor their voices first before we allow someone who thinks that being unapologetically cruel to kids is the way to fix our problems.
Thank you Chris Lehmann!! When I saw Ms. Munroe on TV I was floored!! So typical of this generation of "it's all about me"!! She wants to turn this into a case of her rights?? Of course it is frustrating to teach today's children with their attitudes but you need to really think deeply about that BEFORE you enter the profession. There ARE people who can engage kids today with rigorous and relevant instruction and develop positive relationships while doing so. As a recently retired school administrator in a district where almost 30 percent of the students live below the poverty line, I have see good teachers in action.
Engage them, don't enrage them as Ms. Munroe has done.
I am new to the world of education blogs and this was the first one I came across. It naturally led me to view Ms. Munroe's reply to the comments she made that got her suspended and has caused a firestorm in the world of "teacher blogging."
As a teacher, a parent, and a human being I feel it is her right to vent her feelings, as we all do when we are hurt or frustrated. The manner and format she used to do it, however, was not appropriate, as Chris describes.
We all need to realize whatever we say in a public forum, even blogging, is out there for the world to see, even if it was intended for a very few. I also agree that an apology is in order. Ms. Munroe feels she was justified in her comment because of the actions of a few students. But students need to know that adults make mistakes, they can be humble enough to admit their mistakes and apologize.
A quote I recently came across says, "Temper is what gets you in trouble. Pride is what keeps you there." I think that is the take-away lesson from this. Be willing to admit your mistake--even if it is just because you realize it was hurtful--apologize, and everyone can move on.
Just read your open letter to Ms. Munroe.
You had me at, "You don't teach English. You teach kids."
As a CB East parent (& taxpayer), your whole letter is very well said and bang on. I just hope that Ms. Munroe really does do a little self reflection.
I think this letter should be read by every teacher, and those who are thinking of becoming teachers. Esp. toward the end where you talk about why one would want to be a teacher.
Very powerful, and again, bang on!
I write one too. She is so totally missing the point in many issues this story has brought out.
Thank you for addressing directly, Chris, what is much too prevalent: anger, disrespect and disregard for the humanity of children in school.
I listened to Ms. Monroe's interview on NPR yesterday morning and I was really troubled that the news story seems to be morphing into "teacher's blog becomes a mouthpiece for the profession." I'm a teacher and Ms. Monroe does not speak for me.
Before I entered the teaching gig I substituted to discover if teaching was a smart career option. I can recall sitting in a Faculty Dining room 18 years ago and hearing a small group of teachers speak like they didn't like kids very much.
I always said if I got to that point I would need to walk away.
Thanks for your eloquent reply Chris - hope your words are used to train future educators.
All I can say is thank you -
for being willing to and taking the time to speak out - in a very eloquent and appropriate manner
for being a wonderful voice for kids and teachers and education at a time when it is difficult to keep doing so
for continuously and tirelessly 'fighting the good fight' (I do not know how you have so much energy!)
for being a source of inspiration and a role model for so many
Thank you for saying exactly what I think and saying it so well. I taught for 35 years and have always believed that every child deserves a teacher who loves him/her.
Aside from all the truly awful things that Natalie posted, I am beyond appalled by the fact that she refuses to apologize. Not once has she chosen to take any responsibility for her actions.
I have a blog and realize that anything I say can be read by anyone at all.
Thank you again for your well-chosen words.
I applaud your eloquence. However, as someone who taught in an urban classroom that was, in fact, filled with loud, obnoxious, profanity spewing, defiant students, I can attest to Ms. Munroe's frustration. I left teaching because I realized that I didn't have the talent to reach teenagers. And also because I ended There were some talented teachers who were there and remain there to fight the good fight.
I would ask this: should a teacher be cursed at, taunted, ignored, etc. day in and day out? No matter how hard I tried, how many activites I brought to the class, group exercises, etc., the students more often than not they blatantly refused to do anything. When I sent them out they returned 5 minutes later, having received no consequences for their actions and who are completely and utterly unapologetic. In other words, are teachers there to be "whipping boys" for disregarding, rude and apathetic students?
I think there are many teachers like Ms. Munroe, who may in fact be very commited to helping students. And no matter how hard they try, they run into a brick wall. Are they supposed to silently stand by as parents, school boards and the community blame them for the fact that their students are completely apathetic about learning? How can you know for certain that every child has aspirations? There is no way. There are many (more than you might believe) children who spend their class time denigrating, mocking, insulting and cruelly undermining every attempt a teacher makes to reach them and help them learn. It's not all the teacher's fault. Where is the accountability for students and student conduct? There are students who do want to learn. Unfortunately, they never get the chance because classmates take up all the time creating distractions.
There's no question that the job is incredibly hard, frustrating, challenging... and certainly, students are not blameless. No one is claiming that.
But teachers have a moral obligation not to make it worse. It is akin to the Hippocratic oath - "Do no harm."
Ms. Monroe did harm.
We cannot, as educators, do that.
Mike, I have been teaching in Philadelphia in some of the worst neighborhoods in the city for almost 7 years. I have been called everything under the sun, I have had numerous fights in my classroom, been threatened both verbally and physically.
It is not acceptable. On that we agree.
However, Ms. Monroe does NOT work in an urban school and she does NOT work with troubled youth in a terrible neighborhood. In all my years of being battered around I have never once non-apologetically bad-mouthed these students in a global arena where my words may stick around for decades or more. In doing so, how would I be any better than the disrespectful students that I teach? What kind of model would I be?
If we need to vent--don't get me wrong, we all do!--we need to be mindful of how and to whom we do it.
Aside from all of that, if you don't respect your students you cannot teach them. Simple as that.
There is something becoming more disconcerting in this story.
The media is taking hold of it, and as Al said here, morphing the story into "teacher's blog becomes a mouthpiece for the profession."
I think this story has the potential to cause harm not just to her students (as you have said), but will be used to add fuel to the "all teachers are bad" argument if her post becomes the "mouthpiece for our profession."
I'm getting tired of my profession being uniformly categorized by media and ed-reformers; but because of immature teachers like Ms. Monroe, I constantly feel the need to defend myself to people who do not know me personal or as a teacher. Just another added responsibility to our job description, I guess.
I disagree with much of your letter, Chris. What teacher has not vented about students?
Perhaps one of the problems with education is that students have no motivation to do well. They are given 2nd, 3rd... 99th chances to pass classes. They take high stakes tests without any reason to do well. Letting the students know that they lack motivation and need to improve used to be a staple of education. We used to call it feedback.
Are we so pressured to make students artificially good about themselves that we cannot tell them the truth and encourage them to do better?
It is true that the teacher should have written this commentary in a pseudonym, however, instead of focusing on the messenger, let's focus on her message.
I totally agree with you Trevor...
I think that that Ms. Monroe's words should actually be taken much more seriously by all parents and students... Maybe the lazy arse parents and students(not all being lazy and thoughtless) will wake up and want to work together and harder with all involved...
She should be given credit and not be given all this negative treatment!!! She seems to have awakened many, which I think is a good thing... If she hurt feelings or made people PO'd---BooHoo... Some of Those parents and students need to wake up and figure out that a little hard work and working together may just have some positive outcome!!!
Glad she was given her job back... More power to the brave, enlightend teacher!!!
What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media - Edited by Chris Lehmann and Scot McLeod
The Quote File
"True peace is not merely the absence of tension. It is the presence of justice"