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