Thursday, February 17, 2011

The BOTG Nightmare Come True

The Tourist - Radiohead (mp3)
Nut In Your Eye - Alcoholic Faith Mission (mp3)

A teacher in Pennsylvania has scared me shitless.

She wrote a semi-anonymous blog. She said some harsh things about her job and about her students. Sometimes using really inappropriate naughty words. Words even worse than “shitless.” She got found out. She got in big trouble. She made national news. Extra extra read all about it!

Considering that neither of BOTG’s authors have as our primary goal “fame sans fortune,” the story of Natalie Munroe is a pure horror story for us. With Natalie’s fate, you get all the notoriety and little if any of the financial reward.

Neither of us are quite as jaded about students as Mrs. Munroe seems to be. But I’m absolutely certain that someone could come in, take our writing out of context -- or, OK, maybe once in a while take it totally IN context -- link it to the two actual human beings hiding behind the curtain of Internet semi-anonymity, and start us down the slow road of ending our careers.

Because I take Mrs. Munroe’s fate so personally, I can write with even greater conviction that she seems like exactly the kind of teacher we don’t need more of.

Kids today are screwed up. I don’t debate that, and I don’t make that statement with any sense of superiority. I state it as a matter of fact. But anyone who has read this blog with any regularity -- yes, all three of you -- knows that Bob and I tend to look up the seniority chain when assessing blame for problems in education.

Lethargic or spoiled child? Look to the parents. Lethargic or indifferent classroom? Look to the teacher. Lethargic faculty? Look to the administration. Wherever common sense tells you to lay blame, go one step farther up the ladder whenever possible. (NOTE: Bob, I’m sure I’m unfairly lumping you in here, so please feel free to clarify where you think I’m a moron.)

The feeling I get from reading her cached entries is that her frustration is more condescending. Hers is the indignation of Principal Vernon from The Breakfast Club. Outward more than inward. Them more than us.

Yeah fine, we’ll throw stones at Alejandro Escovedo or someone once in a while, but I think we tend to be very careful when doing so about issues like education, teaching and learning. Bob is an utterly phenomenal teacher, and I’m not, but I’ve got the classroom experience necessary to appreciate the craft and know not to dismiss its degree of difficulty too lightly.

Mrs. Munroe is not unique. Our school, all schools, have teachers who are fed up. Many of them deal with a student body far more nightmarish and problematic than the one at our school. And I sympathize with them. Asking teachers to hold onto their ideals and hopes in their daily environments is like asking prison guards to keep thinking the best about human nature. (Granted, our school in this analogy is that country club prison where the inmates get pedicures, but the guards still get testy at times.)

Just because she deserves sympathy doesn’t excuse her, unfortunately. Hers is a job that offers few rewards, most of them long-term investments, and many horrors. But her attitude... well, it’s for shit. She’s lost her edge, as Top Gun might say. She needs to turn in her wings.

Kids didn’t just magically turn sour on education in 2008. Apathy isn’t some virus that just started infecting the teenage masses in the 21st Century. Every year, the educational experience these kids receive becomes farther removed from their present reality. To bastardize Matthew McConaughey’s quote from Dazed and Confused, “High school education, man. It gets older, and the kids stay the same age.”

The intellectual arsenal many teachers bring into the classroom is the equivalent of bringing a WWI biplane into a dogfight with an F-15. They bring out the educational equivalent of Howdy Doody and Gidget and then wonder why the kids don’t engage.

I’m not just talking techno-gadgetry here. One of our best and most captivating teachers, even in the spring of 2011, is a straight-up hardcore lecturer. He talks. And talks. And talks. You, the student, listen. And take notes. And steel yourself to have the right damn answer if and when he calls on you. And most of the students love him! Granted, his students are mostly high-pressure, Type A, study-obsessed ones. But so what? He’s got his niche, and he’s damn good at it.

My bet is that Mrs. Munroe thinks she’s entitled. Entitled to students who are enthralled with her wit, her intelligence, her talents. She shouldn’t have to earn their enthusiasm. Yeah well, tough tamales. If she entered the teaching profession unaware of the general disaffected nature of being a teenager, then she was either homeschooled on a small island in the Pacific or drank so much in college that she totally forgot what it was like to be a high school student.

Slam the students. They deserve it. But for every sentence you write slamming the smallest cogs in the machine, write a few paragraphs questioning the system, the administrators, the teachers, and the parents. It’s the adults who run the damn thing. If the problems with the asylum could be addressed merely by fixing the inmates... well, you wouldn’t much need the damned asylum in the first place.


Sara C said...

You had me at hello.

My problem with this woman is not ONLY that she is apparently a teacher who cares nothing for her students (which makes you wonder what she does care about). That's certainly problematic and worthy of your call for her to "turn in her wings."

My larger problem is this: Judging from the blog excerpts I've been able to see, she's also a really terrible writer. And what subject did she teach, kids? That's right. English. So she doesn't care about her students, and she apparently doesn't care about the English language enough to craft a blog post carefully.

I ask again: what does she care about? Potential answer: the kind of fame without fortune that she got. A nightmare for you might just be her wish come true.

BeckEye said...

Don't mess with Ms. Munroe young man, or you'll get the horns.


John said...

Her rant reminded me of the faculty meetings we used to have at the end of the year where we weighed in on the kids who were on the edge academically. A recently retired history teacher habitually used the time to make snide comments about the students he didn't like, which was most of them. I think that was a large part of why we no longer have those meetings--they became a pecking party too often.

Daisy said...

The powers that be at your school certainly can't fire y'all for poor writing skills or lack of passion or respect for your students!

cinderkeys said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cinderkeys said...

I was sympathetic to her until I read the comments from her former students. For the most part, nobody was surprised about her attitude. Blowing off steam outside the classroom is one thing. Conveying that derision inside the classroom is another.

I'd make a lousy teacher, I admit it. But I'd like to think that a good one could demand appropriate behavior without sneering at the kids.