Natalie Munroe: Crusader or Complainer?

The suspended Central Bucks teacher/blogger fancies herself a school reformer

After Tuesday night’s meeting of the Central Bucks district school board, teacher Natalie Munroe’s chances of getting her old job back seem about as slim as Hosni Mubarak’s. But the controversy over her suspension still rages on. Munroe was pulled from the classroom with pay on February 9th after a blog she’d been quietly writing made the rounds among students and administrators. Her post titled “If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say…” is long gone, but according to archived versions, Munroe described how, for some kids, her “scornful feelings reach such a fever pitch.” She also daydreamed about what she wished she could write on her students’ report cards, including such eloquent bon mots as “shy isn’t cute in 11th grade; it’s annoying,” “dresses like a streetwalker,” “sneaky, complaining, jerkoff,” “lazy asshole,” and my personal favorite from the honors English teacher, “rude, beligerent [sic], argumentative fuck.” There wasn’t much support for Munroe at that meeting, and rightfully so.

[SIGNUP]For anyone trying to spin this as an attack on free speech, don’t get it twisted. Just as you have the right to tell your boss he’s a soulless bastard, he has every right to fire you on the spot. Some professions are held up to higher standards—police, doctors, and right up there at the top, educators. They are caretakers, and there is a trust factor that comes with the gig. When Munroe used her blog to trash her students, she broke that trust. If she worked at McDonald’s and wrote about her dim-witted customers, not a big deal; I don’t feel an unspoken bond between myself and the dude who makes my Quarter Pounder with Cheese. The Pennsylvania State Education Association suggests the following standard for its teachers: “Each time you post a photograph or information on the web, make sure you would gladly show it to the following people: your mother, your students, your superintendent, the editor of the New York Times.” Munroe carried the nastiest teacher-break-room chatter into the public record, and in doing so, she crossed a serious line.

What’s unfortunate is that she probably has some legitimate gripes. Following her suspension, Munroe said that the Central Bucks school district often sides with parents and students, not teachers, when conflicts surface, and that when students aren’t ignoring their teachers, they’re disrespecting them. If Munroe had taken a stand against permissive parents with a “not my kid” mentality, or administrators who are too afraid to defend their teachers, then I’d applaud her bravery.

But Munroe isn’t a whistleblower. She’s a whiner. She moaned about her students and their upbringing, presumably to release some of the feverish scorn that was building up inside her, all while writing under the worst case of attempted online anonymity (“Natalie M.”) since Rex Ryan allegedly posted foot-fetish videos of his wife. And the smack-talk wasn’t limited to the classroom. In one post, she blamed her daughter’s babysitter for exposing her kid to germs (“I don’t understand why, if you know one of the kids you watch is sick, you don’t clean the toys … sorry, but the common denominator here is the sitter’s house.”). In another, she ranted about how she began eating her lunch alone at school, “because some of the people I work with have, in past, not been nice to me at lunch—have ignored me, belittled me, disrespected me, or been annoyed by me.”

What’s the real common denominator here? Munroe gripes about everything. So of course, despite the predicament she’s put herself in, she keeps yapping. The day after the board meeting, she defended herself against “below the belt tactics” of the media and the school district on her new blog. It’s a ridiculous “don’t blame the messenger” defense of an image she posted that contained a caption insulting special-needs kids. Even worse, she’s now painting herself as a champion of school reform. “Despite any misinformation that may be presented by others,” she wrote, “I will continue to discuss the problematic matters that exist in education today.”

The problem here is Munroe. She’s not a crusader. She’s a complainer who’s trying to somehow spin her self-absorbed behavior as something noble. She picked the wrong forum to let off steam and the wrong targets for her potshots, and she got busted. Want to do something to improve education today? Find a new career. And please, stop blogging. There’s enough useless bitching on the Internet already.