Ethics Dunce: Teacher Natalie Munroe

This isn't Natalie...just on the inside.

Teacher Natalie Munroe was suspended from her job at a Philadelphia-area high school after her online rants about her students, co-workers and administrators were found, read, and distributed by some students and parents.

Munroe, however, neither had the common sense or the understanding of her obligations as a professional to apologize, and has decided to be defiant instead. She pulled down the offending blog posts and is now defending herself, arguing (naturally) that her First Amendment rights have been violated (yawn!), that her comments were “taken out of context” (an old stand-by), that her insulting opinions about her school duties were but a small proportion of what she posted (and, she might have mentioned with the same rapier logic, an extremely small percentage of her total communications output since birth, and an infinitesimal percentage of all the words uttered by homo sapiens since the Stone Age ) and most of all, that what she said about her Central Bucks East High School students, none of whom were mentioned by name, was all true.

You can read her self-absorbed excuse-making here, if you have a high boredom and annoyance threshold. Or you can read one of the blog posts that got her suspended, in which she confesses how she would like to describe her various students to their parents, listing, among other descriptions…

“Rat-like…Lazy asshole…Sneaky, complaining, jerkoff…Frightfully dim…Dresses like a street walker…Whiny, simpering grade-grubber with an unrealistically high perception of own ability level…One of the most annoying students I’ve had the displeasure of being locked in a room with for an extended time…Rude, beligerent [ Note to Natalie: English teachers shouldn’t misspell words on their blogs], argumentative fuck…Weirdest kid I’ve ever met…I didn’t realize one person could have this many problems…Liar and cheater…I hear the trash company is hiring…Utterly loathsome in all imaginable ways…I called out sick a couple of days just to avoid your son…There’s no other way to say this: I hate your kid.”

“I hate your kid.” Now why, Natalie wonders, would any parent get upset about that?

Munroe, the professional whom Doylestown, Pa. parents entrust their children to for their education, has admitted that she detests her job, loathes her responsibilities, and has feelings ranging from contempt to revulsion to hatred for the very same young people she is supposed to be helping…and she is indignant that school administrators and parents think this disqualifies her for her job.

She writes now:

“I am a professional and take pride in my work. I am perfectly capable of separating my personal feelings about some of the people I have to work with from the work I accomplish. In that way, I’m also like millions of people around the world; at some point, we all have to work with someone we don’t like. But we do it anyway, get the job done, and move along. That’s how life works. To suggest otherwise is ridiculous.”

Here is another way life works, Ms. Munroe. Teachers are professionals. Professionals have to be trusted. Lawyers may not like their clients—frequently they don’t—but if they tell their clients that they think they are slimy morons who probably would do society a lot more good behind bars, that client is going to find another lawyer. If a doctor, in whose hands I am going to entrust my internal organs, confides in me that he hates my guts, believe me, I’m taking my guts to another doctor. And if you think President Obama would have a chance at re-election if he was found to have posted on his secret blog, “So many Americans appear to be under-educated, bigoted, hateful cretins. I can hardly stand looking at them,” you are deluded.

A teacher who writes, with or without using names, that her students are assholes and fucks, and that she hates some of them, is not going to be trusted by any parent, or any student. She is theoretically a professional, but she is an untrustworthy professional, which means that she is a lousy professional. She is useless, because such strong personal dislikes and biases are difficult to overcome, and everyone knows it. Do some of the other teachers feel similarly? I’m sure they do, but I will entrust my son to someone who might harbor secret hatred for her students before trusting a teacher whom I know harbors such feelings, and whom, moreover, has shown the common sense and judgment of a fourth-grader by sending such sentiments into cyberspace.

Natalie Munroe needs a lesson on how the Internet works, some humility, a vacation, and most of all, a new profession.


Addendum: Stories like these always expose the most persistent misconceptions, ethical fallacies and flawed habits of analysis in the public, and the tale of Ms. Munroe’s blog is doing an unusually good job of it. Almost all of these are on vivid display over at the Huffington Post. I may use the comments there to do a survey and de-bunking of the most typical rationalizations and unethical mindsets adopted  by HuffPo’s readers…if they don’t depress me too much. They might.

62 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Teacher Natalie Munroe

  1. I appreciate how SSL stated the issue, “We are indeed free to say anything we want but we must also be willing to be accountable for what we say, how and when we say it, and accept the consequences of our words and deeds.”
    Monroe has a right to vent her feelings but also know, that in writing them, they are no longer private, therefore, open to criticism and repercussions. Sometimes venting can be exaggerated, blown out of proportion, mabye stronger than we feel. As I try and teach my children, think before you speak. Once those words are out there, you are responsible for them. In my opinion only, does she deserve a second chance? quite possibly. Should she be held accountable for the words she used? definitely.

  2. So, from what I gather, there are a few ways she could have vented in order to keep her job without violating standards of professional ethics; 1. Do it completely anonymously, so she doesn’t crush the trust that her students are supposed to have in her if she wants to do her job right; 2. Vent about it in a much more civil tone that also asks for students, administrators, politicians, voters, etc., to do their part to change the problems she sees; 3. Keep the rant, but act like a true whistleblower and accept getting fired, while continuing to fight against the system by bring more public awareness (though public sympathy for such a figure might be limited).

  3. @Julian and Jack: nobody takes anonymous comments seriously, as such bring up the question as to why the commenter won’t come out and man up; teachers’ unions don’t appear too eager to console rank and file who want to do good jobs; no matter what such a person would say or how he would say it, somebody somewhere would take offence and whine to authorities all too eager to please a voter and punish the innocent – a losing situation for a whistle-blower. Kim is spot on, but the rest of you seem to want to throw Ms Munroe to the wolves, or play traffic cop at Talladega. If a whistleblower is doing right, there should be protection from retaliation.

    • DP—no way Munroe qualifies as any kind of whistleblower. That was not her intent, and what she is doing now is PR, defense and damage control. Bottom line: This isn’t punitive. The woman can’t do her job as a teacher once such sentiments are known. Too bad, so sad, but it was her doing, and nobody else’s.

    • If they ended up taking offense at well-intentioned, evenly-worded criticism, than the unions, administrators, and politicians are the ones at fault, and Natalie Munroe would NOT have deserved to be fired, and would have had my support, and I presume Jack’s as well. But that’s not what specifically happened in this case, is it?

      Also, Deep Throat would like to object to your statement that revelations from semi-anonymous sources are never taken seriously.

      • Exactly right. How is referring to un-named students as “rat-like’ and “weirdest kid” whistle-blowing, constructive, or anything but gratuitously mean-spirited? How do we know everybody didn’t immediately recognize who the “rat-like” child was? (If it was my 5th grade class, I would have known EXACTLY who was intended.)
        Her supporters aren’t dealing with what she actually wrote, just what they presume drove her to write it.

  4. Actually, I think she should have punitive consequences. There are standards of behavior, conduct, and professionalism in any job. When those are willfully and blatantly violated in an egregious way, punishment is appropriate. There is no business on the planet that would allow a professional employee to publicly (whether she intended this to be widely read of not misses the point) trash the company, the management, the co-workers and customers in such a manner. I have 20 years of professional/management level experience in the business realm prior to becoming an educator. Had I ever been found to have posted such inappropriate rants on the internet, I assure you I would have been fired. And, I wouldn’t have “lawyered up,” I would have accepted that as the obvious consequence for my poor judgment and inappropriate behavior. Had one of my employees done the same, I would have lost no sleep in firing them. For anyone to describe this teacher as some type of “whistleblower” or “activist” or whatever, defies logic. As has been pointed out, the term “whistleblower” has a very clear and specific definition involving acts of illegality, etc. What Ms. Monroe is ranting about is not illegal, is not news, is not some previously unknown and shocking revelation. It is nothing more than childish, unprofessional, and inappropriate venting conducted by someone who is supposed to be a role model to help lead children by example. We have a right to free speech but our employers have a right (oh…that’s right, unless we have lifetime tenure perhaps….) to decline to continue to employ us if the speech we freely engage in is incompatible with our professional roles, the interests of our company, or their customers. In this case, the things she said, and the tone and manner in which they were said, are clearly incompatible with her role as teacher. You cannot un-ring this bell. She said these horrible things and she cannot possibly, as has been well stated above, ever hope to have any credibility or trust as a teacher again. It doesn’t matter if she has a point. It doesn’t matter if what she said is true. How and where she said it is the issue. Any other argument completely misses the point. Teachers are supposed to be ROLE MODELS. Teachers are supposed to set an example for their students with their behavior, their language, and their conduct. Without that most basic core expectation of our teaching force, we surely cannot hope to ever correct any of the far bigger issues plaguing our educational system. Too bad the taxpayers will have to foot the bill to defend against her sure-to-come lawsuit.

  5. So you haven’t seen the classroom. I taught 3 years in Middle School. Math. I had many good students–but some were only there for adult supervision. No matter how they were treated, they were waiting for their 16th birthday and there wasn’t a teacher on campus that knew how to reach them. If there were some discipline on the part of administration, you wouldn’t have teacher feeling so helpless and desperate to vent. When the administration allows classrooms to descend into anarchy and parents to run the school, then you’ve lost. If we want to discuss education ethics, let’s talk about that–how schools need to reassert themselves as in loci parentis and control the learning environment for those who want to be there, who want to learn and who want to succeed. Because as it is, we’re catering to the lowest common denominator and nobody’s getting educated the way they should be.

    • All true, and none of which has any relevance to a teacher calling students names and insults in a blog post. This is a theme today—things are bad, so bad behavior should be tolerated. No.

  6. @SLL: I assume there to be a difference between toeing the corporate line – which I as an employee do – and working for a public school. The fact that her complaints are worn shows how little the system cares about reform; in the corporate world, failure to reform could be very costly. I don’t have to patronise your company; I have to fund the educational juggernaut; you can fire unproductive employees; in education its “screw up and move up (a sanitised old army term)” and “No Perp Left Behind.” The type of behaviour of students and parents which the system tolerates – and rewards – more than suggests that teachers already lack public trust, and that any talk of “role modeling” and “trust” is empty rhetoric. She does care for students, but not at all for those who disrupt their learning. What Ms Munroe is ranting about is unethical; ie a corrupt system of patronage and waste masquerading as education. She has a right to be angry, and so should we all. I’m more concerned with the problems she addresses than the fact that she ate her peas with a knife and wiped her mouth with the tablecloth. Teach her some manners rather than throw her out of the dining room – especially when everyone else at the table is engaged in a food-fight.

  7. I, too, am an educator and the problem is teachers do not have the opportunity to vent their frustrations and be invited into a conversation whereby our opinions can actually change the education system for the better. Many people that have not been in classrooms for years or even people who do not have any educational experience are the ones making the educational decisions and this only adds to the frustration. With that being said, Natalie Monroe needs to quit the profession of teaching because she doesn’t appear to enjoy her job at all. Apparently she didn’t expect her “rude, lazy, disengaged, rat-like whiners who are frightfully dim” to be smart enough to find her blog…DUH!!!!!

  8. @City Girl: it’s amazing how selective the intelligence of the little perps can be; ie can’t (won’t?) memorise the Gettysburg Address but can rattle off the latest gangsta rap filth. That they can surf the ‘net but can’t (won’t?) count past 20 without committing indecent exposure, so the issue really is being lazy, digengaged, rodentine, and whiney rather than dumb – thereby bolstering Ms Munroe’s case. Your thoughts?

    • I don’t think my comment really bolsters her case. Children are not all the same and they do not learn the same. Teaching is actually a calling and some educators should not even be in the classroom and I think Ms. Monroe is one of them. Watching her interview and reading comments from her blog, she just sounds as if she is more than frustrated as an educator; something else is going on with her personal views. It takes an exceptional and creative educator to think outside of the box to reach the students. I have had to change my teaching style many of times and do something different than what the textbook states because my students were not motivated. Teachers may not reach all of their students but they most definitely change the lives of many. I am glad this discussion has started but I am still appalled at her comments and her elitist attitude towards her students. She clearly underestimated the intelligence of her students and probably failed to harness the knowledge they do have to assist in their education…that is my point. I wonder what comments her students and their parents would have about how she conducted her classroom. However, there are many changes that need to take place in education and we, as professionals, do not need educators saying they hate their students in a public domain.

  9. I love the fact that she says these are characterizations of different students she’s had over they years. She’d been teaching at CBE only since 2006. She’s only 30 so she hasn’t been teaching THAT long. Pretty sure some people could guess who she was referring to especially when she compares siblings.

    Yeah, I get it. Some kids are lazy and entitled. But no excuse to curse and insult. And the shy? That could have been me. Complaining about someone asking questions? Should be glad they’re interested in what you are teaching.

    The principal of the elementary school I attended from K to 6 had no business being in education. I could get nervous hives just seeing him. I remember once he was talking to someone in front of the office at the end of the school day talking someone when I dropped my metal lunchbox. He stopped his conversation to point out that I’d dropped my lunchbox, was going to start crying, and should call my “mommy”. I didn’t feel like crying until he spoke. And that is how the shy and unresponsive will feel around her. Students and parents alike will doubt her objectivity.

  10. There was no reason for publishing her personal remarks about the students on the blog. As a teacher she must be aware of the fact that any unacceptable behavior will be punished and her reputation will definitely be damaged now.

  11. @Julie: as with the other comments re: public trust, my examination internet traffic suggests that Ms Munroe has it. Would that some of the commenters on this blog were half as steamed over the lack of ethics our educational pork barrel embodies than over Ms Munroe’s table manners.

    • DP–I like the general tone of your “table manners,” but getting on the internet and calling your those under your supervision “fucks” and “assholes” goes well beyond using the wrong fork, and is more akin to crapping on the table….which, though I can’t say I’ve had to deal with it, would certainly get you ejected from MY table, and permanently. I don’t know how you can say, at this point, that Munroe has “the public trust” except from those in the public who want to blame the kids for the lousy education they are getting—and anyway, the “public” trust isn’t what’s important. She has to have the trust of the school, the parents, and her students…and she doesn’t, can’t, and won’t. I think you are being obstinate. And where you get the idea that discussing a micro-problem in educational ethics—an arrogant, hateful teacher with a chip on her shoulder—indicate less concern for the macro-education pork problem (to which teachers are a massive catalyst), I don’t know. It’s kind of a last ditch debate tactic, you know—“Yeah, but what about continental drift? Why aren’t we talking about that?”
      All in good time.

  12. @Jack: I’m not playing the diversion or tu quoque game; I simply disagree with your assessment of the magnitude of the problem (and not that there is a problem), including the nature of Ms Munroe’s behaviour at the table. As for the “trust of the school,” what value can the trust of those overpaid and underworked mismanagers of the public trust be? There’s a time for “tough love,” and calling “assholes” and “fucks” “assholes” and “fucks” might well be part of it. Again, I’m not proposing that she go scot-free; I just don’t need her head hanging in my dining room to make me feel good about myself. Until facts – and I’m sure there will be plenty of fact-finding – I will continue to give her the benefit of the doubt. You persist in referring to her as a liar (“Who says she is telling the truth?”), “arrogant,” whereas I’m a bit more hesitant to judge her intentions (my not being or playing God, and all that), and are adding judge, jury, and executioner to your job description. We can agree that there has been infraction of both ethics and common sense, but I don’t see the need for a lynch mob. PS: I differentiate between teachers per se and their union.

    • A good differentiation to make, but they are also responsible for each other.
      I have no reason to call her a liar, and didn’t; but we have no reason to take her jaundiced viewpoint as fact, no, do we? Arrogance—she score all the markers: she thinks she’s too good for rules, too good for her job. What would you call it?

      And regardless of how we may disagree (or not) about the value of the trust of her superiors (note that you did not reference the parents and the kids themselves) she still has to have it.

  13. @Jack: Ms Munroe’s veracity should be taken as fact until it is proven to be otherwise – which indeed is a possibility. Too good for her job? Too good to be a babysitter rather than the teacher she trained to be might be more appropos. As far as the parents and kids: I’d be curious about the parents of kids who resent their learning being disrupted or dummied-down to mollify the parents of perps-in-training feel? Perhaps they’re thinking “give ’em another lick, Ms Munroe!” There might be a conscientious superior lurking under a desk somewhere – let’s get his/her take.

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