COMMENTARY | According to the Lookout, Philadelphia-area high school teacher Natalie Munro, she of the controversial blog that led to her suspension in 2011, has been fired. Munro's blog made national news after she criticized students in her classes for being arrogant, spoiled, disrespectful, and lazy. The anonymous blog was discovered by a student and revealed to parents and peers, sparking the outrage. While the law allowed Munro to return to her teaching job, it appears that she has finally been drummed out of Central Bucks East High School despite her assertions of her freedom of speech rights.
Administrators are claiming that Munro was, at best, a "satisfactory" teacher who had had "performance difficulties well before" her blog became noticed. As a teacher, I cringe. The written standards for teachers are strict and perhaps unattainable for many who teach classrooms full of difficult, recalcitrant students. We're expected to keep 90 percent of disenfranchised students engrossed in the subject material at any given point? Please! On my best days I'm lucky to hit 90 percent for a few minutes at a time.
I finished my first year of teaching with an above-average rating but knew that the judgment was based on the "going rate," so to speak. Administrators know that the standards are a bunch of bureaucratic stipulations cooked up in the state capitol. Holding teachers strictly accountable to all the stipulations would amount to waves of teachers being found substandard every year, leading to mass layoffs and crippling K-12 education. Obviously, most teachers are judged on a holistic approach and by "rules of thumb."
The problem is that, when administrators want a teacher gone, they adhere strictly to the rule book, knowing that they can poke holes in a teacher's performance by referencing impossible standards. Teachers need to encourage policy makers to come up with more realistic expectations of teacher performance in order to avoid these situations. Those who support teachers should do the same.