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.”