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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Blogging With Consequences: Denial of Freedom of Speech?

There is a story flooding the internet right now about a teacher from Pennsylvania who is on paid suspension for blogging about her students.  While she never used students' or teachers' names, only included her first name and last initial, and never mentioned the school she taught at, her blog is still under investigation and is being harshly criticized.




Apparently, she referred to her students as "rude, lazy, disengaged whiners." She also is quoted as saying, "There's no other way to say this, I hate your kid." 

These are just a few of the things she's said, but, according to reports, she has been blogging since 2009 about her students.  Because of this, parents, teachers, and administrators are calling for her resignation.  Others want her fired immediately.  

But why penalize her for using her right to freedom of speech? Blogging is just one of many ways that American's voice their opinions.  Bloggers are allowed to write and rant about politics, parenting, religion, marriage, and countless other topics, but if she talks about our kids, more than likely only stating the truth, we want her fired? I think it's outrageous that she is not granted the same freedom of speech as the rest of us because she is a teacher. 

In her interview with Good Morning America, she stated that the administration continuously swept problems under the rug.  Doesn't that sound like a typical school district? Always refusing to deal with problems until they make the school look bad. 

Coupled with the fact that she is pregnant with her second child, I'm sure she just needed an outlet to vent her frustrations.  Middle school and high school students are a tough age to teach.  I've substitute taught for these age groups (working toward becoming a high school English teacher) and have walked away many times thinking the very same things that this teacher wrote in her blog.  That doesn't mean that I don't love teaching and love students. But sometimes they are beyond frustrating.

How many of these parents would say the exact same things about their own child? There is an entire world of blogs where parents just complain about their kids.  Parenting is tough.  So is teaching.  

The only problem I would have with her blog is if it's found that her negative attitude was being demonstrated in her classroom.  Was she notorious for being negative toward her students? Was she apathetic and disengaged in her teaching? Did she treat the students poorly? Did she ever say these types of things to the students?  

If not, then she is just another teacher who wrote her feelings down rather than vent them to other teachers in the teachers' lounge.  If every teacher with negative feelings toward students were asked to resign, I doubt there'd be any teachers left. 

Let's not be so hard on her and realize she was just writing what most of us think. 

How do you feel about this? Do you think she should be allowed to blog about her career as a teacher and her feelings towards students? Should she resign? 

19 comments:

  1. Well said. I don't think she did anything wrong. She never identified any student or teacher that she was referring. Blog are created to help people vent and express themselves is a part of being an American. I am sure that the bigger problem is not that she wrote the problems about the kids, but that the parents are just trying to ignore the fact that their children are out of control. That is an issue that should be looked at.

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  2. You would actually say you hate your child? Um, no I would not say that nor would I ever publicly post that I hate someone's child. No parent wants to hear someone else say that about their child but especially not a teacher who is entrusted with their well being. If it were your child she were talking about, how would you feel about that? I get venting but a public arena when you are a teacher, is probably not the best place to vent about other people's children. Vent about the district, vent about feeling frustrated but don't say awful things about kids. It'll never go over well.

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  3. Obviously she didn't mean hatred towards a kid. More along the lines of rude, disengaged whiners. Hello, you think the freedom of speech isn't an option for all? Who cares if it goes over well or not, a constitutional right is a right.

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  4. Oh give me a break. If someone said they hate your kid, you'd be up in a tizzy and we all know it. I was going off what the writer wrote

    'She also is quoted as saying, "There's no other way to say this, I hate your kid."

    So yeah, looks like she said, I hate your kid. I don't want a hateful teacher, teaching my kids. Most mothers don't.

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  5. I just read a local author's book about the Neskowin School here on the coast. I was in awe of how raw he wrote about the students and staff of the school. Even mentioning some names. Raw. I kept wondering what those parents would say if they read his book! He's written more books, had author signings here in town and teaches English in a town 30 minutes away. Nothing. It's HIS story. About HIM. Sure he has a horrid attitude about any but the perfect student, and then even a snide comment about that one. but the fact remains - it is his life. His story.

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  6. I totally agree with you Shoni. She took reasonable steps to protect the kids and school by changing names, publishing her initials, and not mentioning the school by name. I worked in schools for a couple of years, and I heard all the things she said and more said by many other staff members when they were venting to each other. The fact is that it's hard to teach, and it's under-appreciated, especially now with the "blame the teachers" phenomenon that seems to be popular right now. I do think an important lesson to remember, though, is that everything on the internet is public, and you have to expect that it will all come out.

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  7. That's the part that bothers me most. The fact that it was done in a public form. I get venting in private but if you go out on the internet and write hateful things about people's children, I'd expect a back lash. I have written some very raw things on my own blog, but for just pure respect, I'd never write something mean about someone else or their children. That's crossing a line. I admire teachers. You guys certainly do a job I wouldn't want to do but I still expect adults to behave with respect and some dignity.

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  8. I was specifically speaking for Shoni, notnthe teacher.

    Listen, the teacher didn't break a contract ornuse names. How could I get in a tizzy? If your kid is a good kid they have nothing to worry about. It's the troublemakers that are the problem and quite frankly it's the parents of these kids that are the issue because they probably aren't even clued in to their childs behavior at school or even this subject for that matter.

    Maybe the parents of kids that are causing this teacher problems should have to read an account of their actions and be held accountable. Regardless, she wasn't specific enough and didn't use names and therefore this should be a non-issue.

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  9. The woman didn't do anything wrong, plain and simple. She didn't identify any of the students by name, she didn't identify the school by name, and she didn't even FULLY identify HERSELF by name (first name, last initial only). Everyone has the right to free speech, regardless of the medium in which they choose to convey it. If people want the woman fired over a blog in which she vented her feelings without naming names, that's like me saying "I don't agree with this historian's account of the Holocaust and the people involved in it, he vilified Hitler, I'm calling for his resignation and I want all the books burned!" Everyone is allowed to have feelings about things, and yes, they are allowed to convey those feelings in whatever way they choose, as long as that way doesn't involve killing, maiming, or slandering someone. Since she didn't name names, she didn't legally do anything wrong, so I hope she gets a REALLY good lawyer, because said lawyer will be wiping the floor with that school board and the parents. She'll get paid damages, too, mark my words. She's got a case, nobody else does. And to the person who said: "Oh please, if someone said they hate your kid you'd be up in a tizzy and we all know it," you're full of crap, and YOU know it. I think YOU are the rude, lazy, disengaged whiner. Of course none of us would like it if someone said they hated our kids, but it doesn't give us the right to exact vengeance on them by trying to take away their livelihood and publicly humiliate them! You are not God, neither is the school board, and neither are the parents of those rude, disengaged whiners. The woman said what she felt, it's not a crime. Get down off that pedestal, before you hurt yourself.

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  10. To the latest anonymous poster:

    Two words - you rule!

    Great writing, great points, Amen.

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  11. Her attitude speaks volumes. Not to minimize the fact that teenagers these days are not taught to respect authorities like teachers, and they do get away with a lot which starts with the parents. However, if her attitude would of been different as in maybe reaching kids rather than hating them I wonder if her heart would be so hard toward her students. Can anyone say projecting???

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  12. Yes anyone can say anything they want. But the question is should it be said in the first place? I mean really I hate your kids. Wow and your a teacher? Tell your husband, your friends, but for the whole world to read.. lacks class. Burn out must be high for teachers. Homeschool revolution then maybe teachers wont hate our kids... then we parents can complain.. ha ha.

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  13. I anonymously hate your anonymous kid!

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  14. I have been unable to locate the original blog site so I will respond to only what I am reading here.

    A subject I speak to and am passionate about is social media manners. As an advocate of children for the last 20 years, I can also say I am very passionate about respecting our children and youth.

    The issue at hand is clearly in how the teacher expressed herself. However valid her points may be, her message was lost. Had she expressed herself in a more professional manner in regard to the concerns she has, leaving out negative tags such as hate, lazy etc. she may have become an advocate for change.

    We must all realize that WHAT we express without regard to the platform used, will only be heard if HOW we express our message is done with integrity and appropriate language.

    What are your thoughts?

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  15. well said Dabney, teachers are professionals and if they can't express themselves in a professional and appropriate way they must be prepared to take the consequences.

    Hopefully this woman will learn from the experience. Hate is a very strong word. You can't expect to earn your living working with children and think that it is acceptable to express hatred for them on a public platform.

    Also, she obviously didn't disguise her identity well enough as she got caught.

    Yes she has the right to say what she likes, as an individual, as an employee and as the teacher of those children, she has responsibilities too. if she had been allowed to continue her job after those comments became public the school would have been utterly lacking in integrity. Action needed to be taken and thank goodness it was.

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  16. Social media manners? I think it sounds like an oxymoron, but interesting nonetheless. Are there a ten commandments to them?

    Here's the teacher (Natalie M) latest blog entry,nwhich defends her position. http://natalieshandbasket.blogspot.com/

    She has every right to write a blog discussing whatever she wants, period end of story. Should be an interesting story as it unfolds.

    Thank you Shoni for providing this discussion.

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  17. Here is the original blog by Natalie Munroe

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:3xdfvZq3_YMJ:natalieshandbasket.blogspot.com/2009/10/big-problem-today.html+%22Where+are+we+going,+and+why+are+we+in+this+handbasket%22+%22Natalie%22+%22A+big+problem+today%22&cd=3&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&source=www.google.com

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  18. I have to admit that I am immensely curious about the reason for all the anonymity!

    But that aside, I left a fairly long comment on Shoni's follow up post to this one and it mirrors many of the things that have been said here by the others. Well, maybe not the anonymous comments...

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  19. Another thought--I think that people come to the word "hate" with very different backgrounds. Some people (and families) throw it around, so won't be as offended. Others treat it like it's a "bad word" so they might be horrified.

    I would agree that her comments weren't professional, nor were other comments I heard at schools, which is why I didn't participate in the "student gossip" myself when I worked there.

    However, I think there is this strange expectation that everyone be "professional" all the time, when in reality very few people are. We've all heard horror stories of other professionals (doctors, lawyers, politicians, etc.) and what they say and do in atmospheres where they feel "safe."

    Of course it's a good thing when people are consistently professional, but I sometimes think that we don't want anyone (teachers, doctors, etc.) be simply HUMAN people who make errors in judgment. (BTW, it's Mary Anne again--I can't figure out any other way than TO be anonymous. :)

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