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

“At first, I thought, ‘This is the best job ever,’” she says.

But the more she taught, the more trying the job became. “When you have 70 papers to grade? That’s when you wish you taught math,” she says.

Of course, she blogged about the bad days, too. She knew that her close friends who subscribed to her blog—and there were only seven, which brought her total followers, including Munroe and her husband, to nine—would sympathize when those tough days got the best of her, like the day she punished three students: one for saying “fuck,” one for saying “shittin’,” and another for bending paper clips into the form of two people having sex. Or the day when the kid whose mother she’d e-mailed about his sleeping in class said, “You know what? You e-mailed my parents about me, and you know what they did? Nothing!”

“It’s not all kids,” Munroe says. “I teach about 180 kids a year, and about 10 are tough.” But she knew that stories about the tough kids made the most entertaining posts—the sort of trials teachers had gossiped about since the beginning of time. Blogging, to her, had become almost a substitute for calling a friend on the phone. Or sending a private e-mail. And though blogs on Blogger could actually be set to “private,” Munroe kept hers public.

“I figured, ‘What’s the likelihood anyone’s going to find it? Very slim,’” she says.

Coming upon it randomly would have been nearly impossible. The title was obscure: “Where are we going & why are we in this handbasket?” Students couldn’t have searched keywords like “Munroe” or “Central Bucks East” or even “Pennsylvania”—-none of those appeared on the blog. Plus, from the start, it had been so hard for her friends to find, they needed Munroe to send them the exact link in order to read it.

“I had enough presence of mind to think, ‘Was it possible? Yes. Was it probable? No,’” she says. “But I thought, ‘Just in case, we’ll keep it anonymous.’ I really, really, really never in my wildest dreams thought that anybody other than those seven people would read it, ever. Nor, if somebody else did, would it even matter.”

IT STARTED TO GO VIRAL on Facebook Tuesday, February 8th. Students madly posted and re-posted a link someone had found—the URL of a blog they swore was written by Mrs. Munroe, a.k.a. “Natalie M.” Dozens of parents and students sent heads-up e-mails to the school principal: “This is being spread over the Internet.”

Students later claimed they knew the blog existed, that Munroe had off-handedly- mentioned it in class. A student actually told one teacher that he’d accidentally found the blog. Months earlier, while searching for a class blog Munroe had also set up on Blogger, he came across one authored by “Natalie M.”

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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?