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Pa. teacher strikes nerve with ‘lazy whiners’ blog

FEASTERVILLE, Pa. (AP) — A high school English teacher in suburban Philadelphia who was suspended for a profanity-laced 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.

“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.”

And in another post, Munroe — who is more than eight months pregnant — quotes from the musical “Bye Bye Birdie”: “Kids! They are disobedient, disrespectful oafs. Noisy, crazy, sloppy, lazy LOAFERS.”

She also listed some comments she wished she could post on student evaluations, including: “I hear the trash company is hiring”; “I called out sick a couple of days just to avoid your son”; and “Just as bad as his sibling. Don’t you know how to raise kids?”

Munroe did not use her full name or identify her students or school in the blog, which she started in August 2009 for friends and family. Last week, she said, students brought it to the attention of the school, which suspended her with pay.

“They get angry when you ask them to think or be creative,” Munroe said of her students in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. “The students are not being held accountable.”

Munroe 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 in an e-mail to the AP. “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.”

A spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association declined to comment Tuesday because he said the group may represent Munroe. Messages left for the Central Bucks School District superintendent were not returned.

Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, said school districts are navigating uncharted territory when it comes to teachers’ online behavior. Often, districts want teachers to have more contact with students and their families, yet give little guidance on how teachers should behave online even as students are more plugged in than they’ve ever been.

“This is really murky stuff,” she said. “When you have a teacher using their blog to berate their students, maybe that’s a little less murky. But the larger issue is, I think, districts are totally unprepared to deal with this.”

Munroe has hired an attorney, who said that she had the right to post her thoughts on the blog and that it’s a free speech issue. The attorney, Steven Rovner, said the district has led Munroe to believe that she will eventually lose her job.

“She could have been any person, any teacher in America writing about their lives,” he said, pointing out that Munroe blogged about 85 times and that only about 15 to 20 of the posts involved her being a teacher. “It’s honest and raw and a little edgy depending on your taste. … She has a deep frustration for the educational system in America.”

Rovner said that he would consider legal action if indeed Munroe loses her job.

“She did it as carefully as she could,” he said about her blog. “It’s so general that it applies to the problems in school districts and schools across the country.”

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Associated Press writer Dorie Turner in Atlanta contributed to this report.

  • mdiavaro99ro

    Why don’t you leave it to the teacher and students of that class to solve this issue? For once, the shy ones might discover the force-within so to speak LOL.

  • xcept4alltheothers

    Despite Ms. Munroe’s indiscretion in venting on a blog, she brings up legitimate issues concerning American students. If teachers were willing to generalize, I suspect that many would agree with Munroe, albeit in a more deliberate and reserved way. Certainly, an unsettling number of students do not care about grades, and many who do care about grades, don’t concern themselves with studying to master a subject.

    My Chinese-American students, on the other hand, go to school all day and take supplemental classes and music lessons at night. Many of the parents get upset with me if I do not assign “enough” homework. I’ve referenced TV characters at times to see if the students watch; for the most part, they do not. Most of their parents treat them much like mine did when I was growing up: high expectations are the norm and entertainment is considered a garnish, not a life goal.

    • doofus_walstib

      There’s more to Ms. Munroe than just her indiscretion. Students and parents have voiced their complaints about Ms. Munroe for sometime with the school’s administration to no avail. From what I have read she made fun of students on her blog that were slow learners or where shy in class. She is a vindictive person who should not be teaching 16, 17 or 18 year olds.

      As you say, her indiscretion is what brought her down. And, now she is trying to spin her way out of this mess she caused.

      Furthermore, most certainly there are bad, troubled, uninterested, lazy students. There are also good students, and brilliant students. Why are they different? It’s not a simple answer as some have written. Many factors and variables affect behaviors, and this is another topic.

      I have 2 kids now in college and one still at CB East HS. My 2 oldest are usually on the dean’s list every semester our youngest finishes with high honors, but we know and do not proclaim them to be perfect.

      Everyone of my 3 kids have butted-heads with at least one “knucklehead” teacher in high school out of all the teachers they interacted with. Our youngest had to experience Ms. Munroe. She is not a pleasant person.

      My kids are not perfect. They would speak to my wife and I about their experiences with teachers in the classroom. We listened and offered advice, while reinforcing that they always be respectful to the teacher. And, at times said, hey, you are just going to have to “suck-it-up”.

      • doofus_walstib

        Here is a 1st person account from a Natalie Munroe student that I found recently:

        4:59pm on Wednesday, February 9, 2011
        As a student at East I do agree that students are difficult. But I do know pretty much all of the students she was referring to in her blog, and while many of them can be very difficult and pretty rude, they’re not terrible kids. And I’m saying this from the viewpoint of someone who isn’t even friends with them and at times strongly dislikes them. To be honest, if Munroe hadn’t walked into school everyday with an air of superiority and distaste for everyone, the students probably would’ve respected her and acted pretty appropriately in class. East students really aren’t that bad. They just challenge any questionable authority. Which isn’t really hard to come by in America. I’m not justifying what the students did, but I am saying that Munroe needs to take a look at herself before she says such low and childish things about other students. The words she used are really what got me, as well as her bashing of shy and unassuming students who are too soft spoken to participate. For me, that was really taking it too far. Munroe is just a cruel, judgmental woman who is probably still bruised from her own upsetting high school experience. I hope she finds solace in some other profession, but I do not support her returning to East let alone any other school to teach again.

        5:29pm on Wednesday, February 9, 2011
        Like I said, I’m not justifying what the students did, but I’m just saying that teachers who act professionally don’t walk in class everyday with attitudes ready to write students up. Munroe gives no one the benefit of the doubt, not even normally well behaving students who make a mistake. It’s not that students can act however they want to to a teacher that they don’t like, I’m just saying that they probably wouldn’t have been acting that way if she put her haughtiness to the wayside and tried to teach. I’m not against teachers in any way, I value the services they provide to students who need their guidance. I have had a lot of wonderful teachers who have handled bad students very well without receiving backlash. However, I have witnessed Munroe’s ways, and see where some of these students are coming from. Again, not that I condone it or would act the same way, but I’m just saying that it’s laughable that Munroe has such a lack of self-awareness in regards to why her students act out so frequently in her class.

  • doofus_walstib

    Ms. Munroe the author of “It’s Everyone Else’s Fault” (IEEF) blog claims that she was only venting like everyone else does after work. Only she expressed her frustrations in a public forum in profanity laced rants toward her students, peers, the school districts administration and the student’s parents. How professional for the teacher who loves “the written word and communication”.

    Just when you would think the enlightened educator that she envisions herself to be would accept responsibility for her actions she proclaims: “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.”

    But, according to Ms. Munroe students are the only people that are unaccountable.

    People should not get annoyed with her when she points out what she believes their deficiencies are, the “people need to examine their behavior and make a change”. Does anyone think that she would do the same?

    So to explain her way out of the mess that she did not provoke she now feels that she is the spokesperson for what is wrong with our country’s education system. With just 4 years of teaching experience and a history of profanity laced tirades we are to believe that she is capable of a lucid dialogue about education and personal responsibility?

    Are there irresponsible children? Yes. Are there irresponsible teachers? Yes. Should Natalie Munroe be the arbiter to tell us who is or is not responsible?

    I know that Ms. Munroe felt that she “really wasn’t using any of the awesome stuff” that she knew. Here’s some really awesome stuff that I know Ms. Munroe, you are the perfect Captain Queeg in Herman Wouk’s “The Caine Mutiny”.