Okay, so this lady. Do I feel her pain and frustration at trying to teach–of being held accountable to teach–students who seemingly have no interest in learning? Sure, I do. Have I, in a moment of frustration, vented and pronounced judgments and labels upon certain students or groups? Probably. But I did it behind closed doors to my spouse or my parents or my friends whom I trust. And, most importantly, I did not do it to make pot-shots at my students’ expense.
And that is my biggest problem with Mrs. Munroe’s actions. Her words read more like insults, no matter how “symbolic” or “about-no-one-in-particular” or even how truthful they were. And worse, the purpose of the insults seem to be, in part, to entertain herself and her readers. At that point, she positioned herself as an accusor instead of an ally and compromised what I believe is an intrinsic level of trust placed in teachers. You are there because you want what is best for students. That you are there to help them.
This does not mean that I think teachers should shine sunlight up everybody’s fannies, either. I could say that every student wants to learn they just need to be properly motivated… Or that students don’t fail the system, the system fails the students. I could say that… but that isn’t reality. The reality is that there are troubling and unpleasant truths to tell about education, about students, about teachers, about schools–about the whole shebang–just like there are unpleasant truths to tell about all the endeavors of humanity. But I’ve never adopted the philosophy that you’ve got to be cruel to be kind. I’ve never supported the idea that truth can be weilded as a weapon simply because it’s true. Just because the truth just hurts sometimes does not mean that the truth-teller can be just as harsh and unmeasured as they desire.
Finding that measured level of honesty without harshness can be difficult. There have been plenty of times I’ve had to inform a parent that their child’s performance and/or behavior has been unacceptable. And every time, I feel a little anxiety about what the parent’s reaction will be because I want the information I give parents about their children to be accurate, and truthful, and I want to be fair. As long as I am fair, I believe that the parents and students will see me as an ally, even if they do not like the truth that I had to tell. Ms. Munroe’s comments strike me as unfair to her students.
And just to be perfectly fair and truthful, this generation of young people have have some absolutely beautiful, spirited, talented, bright, kind, outstanding individuals.
I’ve often wondered if the things I’ve written here will ever come back to haunt me. If you were to comb the archives, yes, you would find a few colorful choice of words. You would find a few posts in which I sound-off about the state of education and my job. However, I’m pretty confident that even when I was frustrated with my job and vented here, I did not turn my frustration upon my students–although I will admit that at times some of them really deserve it. I would never want to say or write anything that would cause my students to question whether or not I see the goodness in them…
…Because I do see it. Every day. I really, really do.