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Who is at Fault?
Last week Pennsylvania teacher Natalie Munroe was suspended from her job for calling her students “rude, lazy disengaged whiners” on her personal blog. The blog was intended for her own personal use, she did not name anyone specificly, nor did she identify the school or district. Was the school district within its rights to suspend her or is she protected under the first amendment rights, Freedom of Speech?
Hundreds (maybe thousands?) of teachers across the country have expressed sympathy over Munroe ‘s position and have sided with her opinions and her right to express them. Others feel that she is just preoccupied with complaining about her students when she should be busy educating them. Regardless of the position one takes, a conversation has begun about honesty in education.
Teacher bashing has become the sport of politicians, parents and media. If a student fails, it ‘s the teacher ‘s fault. If the student is a behavior problem, it ‘s because the teacher doesn ‘t know how to handle him or her. If the student doesn ‘t come to school, the teacher should be calling home to find out why. If the student is disengaged, the teacher isn ‘t making the class interesting. Responsibility for learning has been completely removed from the shoulders of those who should bear it- the students.
I have been teaching for twenty nine years and in the last ten have seen a rapid decline in students ‘ interest level, motivation and desire to succeed. Technology is in part to blame, but so is the entire structure of public education. And so are the parents. Teachers see kids for seven hours out of a twenty four hour day. We can only control what we do in the classroom and yet somehow we have been made responsible for the behavior, esteem, education, health and well being of every kid that comes into our class. As a colleague of mine recently stated, schools have moved from an educational position to a social welfare one.
I recently mentioned that teaching is one of the hardest professions to someone not in the field. “It ‘s not one of the hardest.” he replied. “It is the hardest.” And it gets harder every day with less incentives to stay. If teachers are blogging or venting about student apathy and problem behaviors it is not because they are not good teachers or not tyring hard enough or expecting too much it is because this is the situation as it exists in today ‘s classrooms. No race to the top or leaving no child left behind is going to solve the problems until all parties- schools, districts, states, parents and media- are willing to take a honest look at the issues and come up with real, workable solutions to create a successful educational environment for all instead of laying all the blame at the feet of teachers.