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McCULLOUGH: Student/teacher wars on Web not very smart

The Pennsylvania teacher suspended over comments she made about her students on her blog is being hailed by some as a hero while others are pushing for her removal from the profession.

Others simply think Natalie Munroe used poor judgment, and that’s putting it lightly.

Munroe, a high school English teacher, posted criticism of her students on the Internet that ranged from calling them “lazy whiners” to saying she hated another student. She didn’t back down after being confronted about the comments either, telling the Associated Press, “They get angry when you ask them to think or be creative. The students are not being held accountable.”

The postings were all done semi-anonymously under the name Natalie M, and apparently no students were named. Still, the incident begets questions.

First, should teachers — or anyone — be blogging about work on the Internet? The answer is you certainly have a right to do so, but you’d better be willing to face the consequences.

It continues to amaze me at what people will post for the world to see. It’s also stunning to see how many folks don’t realize how truly small and un-anonymous that world is now.

Posting rants on the Internet and complaining to a trusted co-worker over beers is not the same thing. The Internet is not a diary you can shove under your pillow. When you complain online you should assume that everyone on Earth will read it. That includes ex-wives, bosses and students. When you call the boss a moron on your Facebook page, you shouldn’t be surprised when you find yourself packing up your desk the next day.

The next question is, was Munroe right? That I can’t answer. I don’t know her students, but I’ve been around enough to know that a lot of students definitely fit her description of being rude, disengaged and lazy.

But I have also known some teachers who were not very good at their jobs. Getting students motivated is one of the core requirements. Some of Munroe’s harshest critics are using this as justification for calling for her dismissal.

I can’t speak to Munroe’s ability or that of her students. She may be a great teacher and her students might be idiots. It might be the other way around. But I’m not sure we should indict the national student body or the teaching profession over this one incident.

Education is like any other human endeavor. It has its winners and losers, its star students, its teachers of the year, its paycheck collectors and its dropouts.

But the vast majority fall in the middle where teachers are trying to teach and students are trying to pass. Its encumbent on those students to take charge of their education, and its the responsibility of those teachers to make sure the students know the consequences of not doing so.

Maybe if everyone involved spent more time focused on that and less time complaining on the Internet, our education system would rank a little higher.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.