Monday, February 21, 2011

What's The Code For "Doesn't Blog Nicely"?

Earlier this week, I read about a teacher who was suspended for derogatory comments she made about her students. She made these comments on her blog (the specific blog with the derogatory comments has been taken down but much of the content is quoted here.) To be honest, my first thought was "is it possible that blogging about my job could result in disciplinary action?" I have blogged in order to process times I lost control and other times I lost control to cite a few.

Once I read Natalie Munroe's original blog, though, and then read the comments made by students in response to the blog, my "wondering" shifted more to the gray areas in this situation. Sometime in her past, Ms. Munroe must have been enthusiastic about the prospect of a teaching profession. She must have (I hope) dreamed of reaching young minds, sharing the joys of literature, creating an educational foundation for lifelong learning. When did that dissipate?

The part of her approach I can relate to is the desire to vent about things in the workplace that are infuriatingly irritating. I have those things (most of us probably do, and I am sure my coworkers could easily turn the tables). I don't want to vent to other coworkers about them and spread negativity. My spouse and children really don't want to hear it. Being someone who vents by writing, it is tempting to take it online, at a site like Workrant that claims to offer anonymity. The issue (for me) with Workrant is, again, why spend all that energy on negativity (not to mention profanity)?

From the other perspective, as the mom of a 9th grade English honors student, I don't want this teacher teaching my child if she is still in the state of mind she was in a year ago when she wrote this blog (which was intended mainly for family and friends, according to Ms. Munroe). If her blog is any indication, she has lost perspective. Sooner or later that will show.

In a recent post, Dan Rockwell (a/k/a LeadershipFreak) wrote about trust. Although the post did not assume a primary audience of teachers, its points, such as "Saying what you don’t want stops things. Saying what you do want instills confidence to start things," are universal. Ms. Munroe does not want a child who (in her words) "has no other redeeming qualities."  I realize that this is an era where teachers have suffocating pressure to meet all kinds of mandated standards, and that they don't necessarily have the luxury of teasing out a child's dormant redeeming qualities. But her comments still send a red flag up in my head.

This is what I said in comment to Dan Rockwell on January 31:

One thing that comes to mind related to this topic is that many people, being human, are more capable of building trust in some areas of their lives than others. For example, if my pilot has flown thousands of hours with no safety concerns, it saddens me but does not diminish my trust if the pilot would withhold information from me about potential high tax rates when (s)he sat on my city commission. I think that is important in employee environments; while it is ideal if a leader is 100% trustworthy and “golden” in all life areas, that’s seldom the case. And for that project, that vision, that mission, what is most critical is that the individual can be trusted as a leader. For me, number 6 is most powerful – take the time to let me know how my work and my attitude matter – once I know that, you will find that you can trust me with even more.

To keep on the line of logic of my comment, my child's teacher doesn't get the same "pass" that the pilot does. Her profession requires that she relate - to teachers and parents - and I sense in her blog comments that a fire is roiling under whatever exterior she is presenting to the teachers and parents - a fire that is dangerously close to breaking through to the surface.

One of Ms. Munroe's complaints in her blog was that she is limited to numeric codes to express any elaborations she has beyond kids' grades when she does report cards. She states that the "canned comments" don't allow her to adequately express her "true sentiments" about the kids. We have a similar system here in Leon County. This is an example from my daughter's report card:

I can see how a series of numeric codes can be limiting. Ms. Munroe said she finally ended up choosing "cooperative in class" for just about every child.

When I read the students' comments back to Ms. Munroe's blog post, there were a few snarky, sarcastic comments but there were also several that were articulate, pained, and profound.

I just wish that profundity had found expression face to face instead of via the blogosphere.

Note: To read Ms. Munroe's posts about this situation, visit this link.

4 comments: said...

Hi Paula- new follower from the monday mingle. Enjoyed reading your post about the teacher's ranting on her blog. Lots of opinions,not enough time! Would love a follow back, laura

Tough Cookie Mommy said...

Hi, Paula. Thanks for participating in the Monday Mingle at and for following. I look forward to seeing you back every Monday. Make sure you enter my current giveaway. I will be choosing 3 winners to receive coupons for full sized bottles of Purex Complete Crystals Softener.

SuzRocks said...

I think she should've been much more careful if she really wanted to post certain things about students like that. That calls for an anonymous blog. Being in the medical profession, I am extremely careful about whatever I write in regards to the hospital/patients/etc.

And there is no way I'd write anything disparaging about my school/hospital/etc, because that's just plain stupid and asking for trouble.

liesl said...

Thanks for sharing your insights on this. I had seen the issue all over twitter. As a "career education coordinator" at a university, we definitely caution our students about tweeting or facebook-ing or blogging about work. You never know when it'll come abck to btie you and you lose control of your content once it's online. It's in that grey area of what's ethical. But I believe you need to take care of your online persona just as much or even moreso than your in person one!