A teacher in Doylestown, Penn., a suburb of Philadelphia, has been suspended with pay for harsh comments she made about students and colleagues via blog posts. A superintendent for the school district has called her comments “egregious” and noted the blog posts could cause her to lose her job. The teacher, 30-year-old Natalie Munroe, has brought to attention the harsher side of teaching. While still a noble profession at its core, the blog brings to light common grievances that plague those who teach.
These days, teachers are less than appreciated. Low pay, constant threats of layoffs, firings. Take the situation in Wisconsin right now. Look at the troubles that have been facing teachers in New Jersey. Students these days are armed with cell phones, known for texting in class and ignoring their teachers. There is a general sentiment that the younger generation is more disrespectful these days, giving teachers more hassle than they had to deal with years ago. When you also add in the large amount of students with disabilities these days, you see teachers have a lot to deal with. So sometimes, when a teacher has a long day in the classroom, being ignored, given attitudes and worrying about their job, they turn to a blog to complain.
Teachers are public figures; it doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t have the right to a private life, as well as a private Internet life. If Munroe wanted the people she wrote about to read what she wrote, she could have them know. She didn’t print out her blog posts and hand them to students; she didn’t e-mail her colleagues a link to her blog. If we take away one teacher’s right to blog, then we’re going to take away every teacher’s right to blog. As long as what they’re writing about doesn’t affect their work in any way, then their jobs shouldn’t be threatened.
If you’re going to fire a teacher for griping about her students on a blog, then you have to fire those who gripe about their students at a bar, at parties, to other teachers, etc. Get ready, school administrations: You are going to have a lot of empty jobs on your hands. Maybe a public forum wasn’t the best move; perhaps she should have made her entries private. But if we take away one teacher’s right to complain in an otherwise private manner (she didn’t post her full name, after all) then we’re threatening every teacher.
And what about other public workers? Cops? Firefighters? Doctors? Nurses? Do they not have a right to complain too now? Complaining about a bad day at work is a right; who’s going to want to teach or perform any work in the public sector if we’re going to monitor their private lives? We’re not talking about something that would put someone in jail; we’re talking about a blog. A blog . Something that many people only keep up with for a small while. Who’s to say other teachers don’t have them and just have better pen names? Let a teacher complain once in a while; they need to and they deserve to. Once we take away one person’s First Amendment rights, then we endanger them all.
Vincent Sobotka, “Teacher’s blog: Students ‘rude, lazy, disengaged winers”, DigitalJournal.com
Daniel Halper, “In Wisconsin, Teachers Take Students from Class to Protest”, WeeklyStandard.com
Lisa Fleisher, “N.J. Moves to Weaken Teacher Tenure”, the Wall Street Journal