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Who is Right: The Teacher or the Students?

An AP article by Pat Walters reported, “A high school English teacher in suburban Philadelphia who was suspended for a blog in which she called her young charges “disengaged, lazy whiners” is driving a debate by daring to ask: Why are today’s students unmotivated — and what’s wrong with calling them out?

As she fights to keep her job at Central Bucks East High School, 30-year-old Natalie Munroe says she had no interest in becoming any sort of educational icon. The blog has been taken down, but its contents can still be found easily online. Her comments and her suspension by the middle-class school district have clearly touched a nerve, with scores of online commenters applauding her for taking a tough love approach or excoriating her for verbal abuse. Media attention has rained down, and backers have started a Facebook group. I have included a clip from Good Morning America with an interview from Munroe in this post today:

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

Munroe asserts, “The students get angry when you ask them to think or be creative. The students are not being held accountable.” She pointed out that she also said positive things, but she acknowledges that she did write some things out of frustration — and of a feeling that many kids today are being given a free pass at school and at home.

“Parents are more trying to be their kids’ friends and less trying to be their parent,” Munroe said, also noting students’ lack of patience. “They want everything right now. They want it yesterday.”

One of Munroe’s former students, who now attends McDaniel College in Westminster, Md., said he was torn by his former teacher’s comments. Jeff Shoolbraid said that he thought much of what Munroe said was true and that she had a right to voice her opinion, but felt her comments were out of line for a teacher. “Whatever influenced her to say what she did is evidence as to why she simply should not teach,” Shoolbraid wrote. “I just thought it was completely inappropriate.”

He continued: “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.”

OK. Who is right? Is Munroe appropriate in her public comments? Is her former student, Jeff, right when he says it’s her job to motivate the students to learn?

Tim

11 Comments

  1. Greg on February 22, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Is it my bosses job to motivate me to work or to direct my productivity? Is it my creditors job to motivate me to pay my bills? Is it my wifes job to motivate me to stay faithful? Neither is it the teachers job to motivate kids at school.

    However, I would say that they DO have a responsibility in engaging the kids. They are responsible for creating an environment conducive of learning. They should interact with the students in ways that allow for learning regardless of learning preference (seeing, hearing, touching) While it is certainly possible for them to be demotivational factors if they are ineffective teachers, the first move is on the students part. They have to come ready to learn.

    It sounds like this teacher gets that. It sounds as if she has connected as evidenced by Jeff’s comments.

    • texasweezie on February 22, 2011 at 11:00 am

      I think you’re, in part, wrong. It is part of the teachers job to motivate her students…she gives tests and pop-quizzes (if they still do that?) to see if they’ve learned the material she is teaching, thus motivating them to study and listen.

  2. texasweezie on February 22, 2011 at 10:57 am

    I would hope that here comments would start a conversation and lead to change…in the way parents raise their children, the way they are taught or handled in the education system. We’ve become way to permissive, way to focused on not hurting our children s psyche or self-esteem…you know, everyone makes the team and everyone gets a trophy! In another time, she might have written a letter to her friends/family venting her frustrations. Blogging (Facebook, MySpace, email) is the communication venue for today’s world. Unfortunately, that ultimately puts our thoughts out there for the world to see. That being said, I hope she wins this round…she only wrote the truth.

  3. Curtis Ohl on February 22, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    I read this case with a lot of interest. The larger issue is that she had a honest unpopular opine to some and she has become a folk hero to others. She may possibly loose her job over expressing freedom of speech first amendment rights! Since when do teachers or anyone forego their first amendment rights when they get hired? We believe that what is popular is not always right and what is right is not always popular.

    At issue is that she has the right to express her views. Academic freedom even at this level of education is paramount. We can never allow the thought police of others to censor the ideas expressed by Ms. Munroe. If we do not have freedom of speech how would any ideas get communicated? There are always some who want to deny freedom of speech of others, this case shows the intolerance of a few who do not want to hear the painful realities of their children. The bigger issue is are the kids going to graduate or become another failed statistic?

    This is a teachable moment, teach others how to argue syllogistically and form logical conclusions rather than denying her a job teaching!

    With that said I have encountered working in High Schools the many English teachers who fail students, some rightfully so and others just fail to teach the students.

    Schools are a tough place on many levels but to deny any freedom of ideas not to be put forward in the market place of expression is always the wrong course of action!

  4. Ryan on February 23, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    I appreciate this post Tim and just wanted to let you know that I think it’s good and bad that the teacher made her comments public. The only concern I would express is that anyone who goes on her blog would know what school she is talking about and probably the students as well. While most people/teachers may think this about their students it is VERY unprofessional and inappropriate for someone to voice this over an open forum on the internet.

    Having said that, I am engaged to a teacher and know that what Munroe said is true and that teachers can only do so much. They cannot motivate students to learn who have no desire to learn. My fiancee has seen that not only do students not care about learning material or doing well in school, but alot of their parents could not care less about it either. This puts the teacher in a tough position because the students really face no consequences for doing poorly in school (at least that they experience while in school).

  5. Teaching It Real on March 3, 2011 at 7:41 am

    Interested in seeing a new and wildly unique teacher’s blog? One that’s deeply thoughtful and downright funny? Then enjoy A Dixie Diary, at http://www.adixiediary.com. The response from readers all over America has been astonishing.

    Actually published a few days ago during the midst of the Munroe business, this unique teacher’s journal shows a different look at what happens in the schoolhouse by a rookie teacher who loves his work and his students, but he expresses his thoughts and observations in a hugely different way than Mrs. Munroe.

    Sure, there are some intense student-teacher moments, even some choice words, too, but mostly it’s world-class hilarious, heartwarming … like reading a good book. It’s the teacher’s blog we’ve been waiting for. It’s simply mesmerizing.

  6. Amanda on April 30, 2011 at 12:40 am

    She shouldn’t be posting negative comments about her students even if they are lazy. Many teachers I know do say though that students are getting more lazy and disrespectful as the years go on, and many teachers are having a difficult time keeping up but are trying everything they can. I don’t think either of them are right. It’s 50% the teacher, but the students need to put in their 50% too.

    • Tim Elmore on May 2, 2011 at 2:57 pm

      Good point, Amanda. Thanks for taking time to comment.

  7. Aditi thapa on July 1, 2011 at 7:51 am

    its easy for students

  8. Aditi thapa on July 1, 2011 at 7:53 am

    all the children are right

  9. Geronimo_schmidt on July 16, 2011 at 6:49 am

    Like it or not, the fact remains, respect, honor, sense of responsability, education and general knowledge has been decreasing in every generation since the “Great Generation” of WWII…and so have the school systems with their self interest and fear of parent’s lawsuits.
    We may have a few brilliant students with access to all sorts of knowledge, but we are failing our general population
    Bring back the paddle, support censorship of inappropiate TV programs and audio and video or in a few years the movie Idiocracy will become a reality

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Who is Right: The Teacher or the Students?