By Melissa Miller, Ed.D., M.Ed.
Recently, Central Bucks East High School English teacher Natalie Munroe made headlines and the national news with her blog. Ms. Munroe has a blog in which she wrote about, among other things, her frustrations about her students. In a nutshell, the controversy is that Ms. Munroe made comments some feel were inappropriate for a teacher to be writing about her students (none were named specifically).
After reading several news stories as well as Ms. Munroe’s blog, I tried to see both points of view. I believe Ms. Munroe was writing a humorous personal blog to be shared among friends (it is not a professional or sponsored blog). I think the tone of snarky sarcasm about some students was the result of frustration, yet probably cathartic. Was it harmless? Obviously not. I asked myself, how would I feel if my daughter was in Ms. Munroe’s class? I wouldn’t really be surprised that she felt this way about some of her students, but I wouldn’t appreciate her writing about it. It calls in to question the professionalism of this teacher. I think that is the key here. We have all told tales out of school (pardon the pun), but an anecdote at a dinner party is different than writing a blog that the world can see, no matter how small and insignificant you think your blog may be. As my mother cautioned me years ago, be careful what you say and be even more careful with what you put in writing! This is even more prescient today with websites, blogs, and social networking as permanent records of our digital conversations.
Another question occurred to me — who exactly was upset about Ms. Munroe’s comments? Was it students, parents, former students, administrators? Ms. Monroe says the controversial comments were made over a year ago, so she wasn’t sure the reason or motive for the recent outrage. Is the motive or intent of how they were brought to light even relevant? I think not — the issue is the posts, in and of themselves.
When I was a classroom teacher, I was often frustrated when other members of my profession did something to embarrass the profession as a whole. Teachers want to be taken seriously as professionals, so they must act and be professionals. When the standard is applied to other professions, it becomes a no-brainer. Let’s say a psychiatrist wrote a blog about her patients, without names or other identifying markers. Mabye it is humorous, maybe it is a reflection… What is your initial reaction to this scenario? My first reaction is that it is inappropriate, and my gut tells me I would think poorly of a doctor, psychiatrist, social worker (insert professionals worker of your choice here) who wrote disparaging remarks about their protected patients/clients/students.
So what does this mean for the New Adjunct? As a blogger, I am always careful of what and how I write. It is a fine balance between sharing my joys and struggles (which is describing the reality of my profession) and inappropriate information or unprofessionalism. When does it cross the line? My rule of thumb is, if you can’t apply the standard to other professions, then it probably isn’t a good idea. The old-fashioned Golden Rule might also apply here, as well.
About the New Adjunct: Dr. Melissa Miller completed her Ed.D. with an emphasis in Teacher Leadership from Walden University. She holds a M.Ed. from Mary Washington University and a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Virginia Tech. Dr. Miller’s professional and research interests include adult and online learning, professional development, and literacy. Presently, Dr. Miller works as an adjunct instructor and an evaluator, while also enjoying her role as a wife and mother.