Natalie Munroe: A Tale of a Teacher in a Digital Age
Support from teachers around the country poured in: “There should be more teachers like you,” “You are my new hero,” “I … hope the ‘parents’ of those … problem kids get their act together and apologize to YOU!”—all in the 646 comments written in response to her blog. Her new blog, that is. Because three days after being suspended, Munroe did a very strange—or very strategic—thing: She started blogging again. This time, though, she had an agenda.- On her new site at Nataliemunroe.com, she composed her first post: “Bloggate—Day 1: The Scandal Begins.”
“There are serious problems with our education system today,” she wrote, “with the way that schools and school districts and students and parents take teachers who enter the education field full of life and hope and a desire to change the world and positively impact kids, and beat the life out of them and villainize them and blame them for everything—and those need to be brought to light. If this ‘scandal’ opens the door for that conversation, so be it.
“Let that conversation begin,” she typed. “Stay tuned here.”
WHEN EAST TEACHERS got wind that their scorned colleague had positioned herself as an education reformer, any sympathy for her disappeared.
“People got pretty disgusted,” says one teacher. Munroe had never been particularly popular; some thought she was arrogant and a complainer, with a wicked sharp tongue. She often ate lunch alone.
After her suspension, teachers worried that the media would spin the incident as a story about how terrible teachers are. When it became about how terrible kids are, many were flabbergasted.
“The kids at East are honestly the most compliant, respectful kids I’ve ever worked with,” says the teacher. “It’s really easy to say, ‘Kids are so rotten.’ I think it’s a shame; when we want to scapegoat why schools aren’t what they should be, we pick on people who have the least responsibility.” And of course, the students took it personally, as teenagers are developmentally wired to do, utterly convinced the entire world was calling them horrible people.
“These people were taking the side of someone who they never met, and trashing students they had never met,” says East sophomore Matt Eisenberg. “We were getting bummed out.”
But no matter how smart the kids were, or how many pep rallies they held, anyone in the world with Web access could argue that the students had already more than validated the things Munroe had written.