Natalie Munroe: A Tale of a Teacher in a Digital Age

The Central Bucks East teacher who was suspended for blogging about her students is trying to change education—one blog post at a time

But back in Bucks, students blogged and vlogged and texted and tweeted a different story. They held a pep rally, which they filmed and posted on YouTube. They commented on pro- and anti-Natalie Facebook pages that popped up, and for a group that felt so maligned by how they were characterized online, students were even more vulgar in their posts:

… Natalie Munroe is a sexually frustrated cunt whos going through menopause and is throwing a huge bitch fliip and is causing more problems than the holocaust.

While everyone tapped away at their keyboards, the scandal at Central Bucks East—the ninth-highest-performing high school in the state, with SAT scores 209 points above the national average—had already evolved into a sign-of-the-times saga. But neither the players nor the gawkers could agree on what, exactly, that sign was: Bad, burned-out teachers? Coddling school administrators? Entitled kids? Enabling parents?

It might have been all of that, but maybe more than anything, the troubling issue was watching what happens when private thoughts become public. After all, Munroe wasn’t the first teacher in history to think unkind things about her students, and she wasn’t the first teacher to vent to friends about those feelings. But she was operating in the world of new media, where modern-day sounding boards aren’t just teachers’ lounges, but Blogger, Facebook and Twitter.

And that changed all the rules.

MUNROE LOVED TEACHING. It wasn’t always easy for her to get up there in front of a class; she’d never liked being the center of attention. But she relished all the behind-the-scenes planning—from picking out bulletin-board borders at the teachers’ store to figuring out cool ways to teach tough subjects. She blogged about that stuff, too—the good things, like how pumped she felt when a concept clicked with the kids.

“They come up with an idea and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh … yes!’” she says. “And you’re so proud to be part of that.”

Of the 84 posts she’d written since she started blogging in August 2009, only 24 had anything to do with school. The rest involved muffin recipes, Gerard Butler, the Diaper Genie—general life stuff. And that, really, was the whole reason she’d started blogging in the first place.

A friend had prodded her into it as a way to keep in touch. Plus, the friend knew that Munroe loved to write. In fact, after earning an English degree from Rosemont in 2003, she thought of trying book publishing but quickly realized she was far more passionate about The Canterbury Tales than about permissions. She shouldn’t have been surprised—she came from a family of teachers: her mom, her uncle, her aunt. Teaching was in her blood. After getting a master’s in education from Arcadia and student-teaching at Council Rock South, she landed a job at East in 2006, psyched to finally have a classroom of her own.

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  • Tad

    Ready for a brave, new, and wildly unique teacher’s journal? One that’s deeply thoughtful, literate, and downright funny? Then enjoy A Dixie Diary, at http://www.adixiediary.com.

    The response from readers all over the world has been astonishing. Actually debuting during the midst of the Natalie Munroe business, this unique online journal shows a different look at what happens in the schoolhouse by a rookie special education teacher who loves his work and his students, but he expresses his thoughts and observations in a hugely different way than Mrs. Munroe. Sure, there are some intense student-teacher moments, even some choice words, too, but mostly it’s world-class hilarious and heartwarming … like reading a good book.

    It’s the look at a teacher’s madcap classroom world we’ve been waiting for. It’s simply mesmerizing.

  • Mary

    Most teachers encounter resistance from students, whether it’s apathy or obstinance, whether it’s done publicly or privately. Most teachers have sounding boards to vent frustrations to: spouses, co

  • Jeff

    Natalie Munroe displayed disastrously poor judgment, gross immaturity and–perhaps most damning–a startlingly low level of web-savviness. (Teachers should know at least as much as their students do.) By the time this is all over, she’s likely to have become an expert in only one thing: the laws governing libel and invasion of privacy.

  • Frank

    Your comment is one of a knee jerk reaction to a limited amount of information. Did you read the original blog? How can someone be held accountable for “libel, invasion of pri” when NO NAMES were mentioned, NO SCHOOL was mentioned, and it was ANONYMOUS! Get your facts straight!

  • Frank

    Your comment is one of a knee jerk reaction to a limited amount of information. Did you read the original blog? How can someone be held accountable for “libel, invasion of pri” when NO NAMES were mentioned, NO SCHOOL was mentioned, and it was ANONYMOUS! Get your facts straight!

  • Jeff

    It does not matter whether specific names were mentioned. What matters is that the targets of her vitriol were easily identifiable. Everyone in the school quickly knew who she was talking about. Not naming names is no protection.

  • Jeff

    Read this all the way through: http://www.eff.org/issues/bloggers/legal/liability/defamation. “To state a defamation claim, the person claiming defamation need not be mentioned by name—the plaintiff only needs to be reasonably identifiable.”

  • Jeff

    Go to the Electronic Frontier Foundation Web site. Search for: Online Defamation Law

  • Jennifer

    It’s a shame, since she posted this, the only thing she should be punished for is admitting she posted one of her blogs online at school. Otherwise, she is no more at fault than the children. This

  • Jennifer

    students referred to her as comparable to the holocaust…watching your parents and siblings being slaughtered in front of you? really? Grow up. This is our future, maybe in a few weeks? What a sc

  • teddy

    cant believe we cant read the blogs?