At the tender age of 30, suburban Philadelphia English teacher Natalie Munroe found herself at the heart of the fall of Rome.
It was right there before her in her Central Bucks East High School classroom.
"My students are out of control," Munroe wrote in her blog Oct. 27, 2009. "They are rude, disengaged, lazy whiners. They curse, discuss drugs, talk back, argue for grades, complain about everything, fancy themselves entitled to whatever they desire, and are just generally annoying."
Then the entry got good . . . or bad, depending on whether you're reading it or living it:
In the past week alone, I've written up 4 separate students--one for dropping the f-bomb in class, one for repeatedly saying "s***tin'," one for crafting a pencil topper made from paper clips into the shape of a man and woman having sex, and one for being disrespectful to me (Me: Stop tapping. Him: (ignores and keeps on tapping. Another student tells him to stop but he still doesn't, indicating that if he didn't stop when I told him to, he wouldn't stop for this kid either. Another student then kicked the back of the first student's chair. Me: "I DID tell you to stop that already!" Him: "Yeah, you were ignored." Me: Do you want me to write you up?" Him: "Go ahead." Me: "Done!")OBVIOUSLY, there's a problem here. Unfortunately, what's so obviously problematic isn't that "(k)ids today are out of control." It isn't that "teenagers are complete asses." It isn't even that "(t)here's no respect for adults, for authority, for teachers," or that "(p)arents won't allow anyone but themselves to discipline their kids, but THEY don't do any disciplining either."
Then there's the kid in the other class who wasn't happy with the score he earned on his test. (Nevermind that I told kids what to study in preparation for this test, or that I offered to move the test to Wednesday instead of Tuesday to give them more time to study but they voted to keep it on Tuesday.) So this kid earned a 54% on the test, having lost 2 points for not following directions, 7.5 points for being unable to match the names of characters and settings with the story names (which is the easiest section on the whole test if you've simply read the stories for lan's sake!), another 10 or so on another section asking him to match definitions to terms... really, the kid just didn't study enough.
The issue was, though, that his test grade brought his overall grade down significantly (because he had an A, he had farther to fall), from an A to a B. He approached me last Wednesday when I handed back the tests and wanted to know if we did second-chance learning. No, I told him. He wanted to know if he could do some extra credit. No, the English department doesn't offer extra credit, I told him. On Thursday he approached me to find out how many more points are on the marking period because he wants to be able to pull his grade up by then. I told him the assignments I know I'll be grading prior to that time. On Friday he emailed me and explained that he was unhappy with his score and again asked for extra credit or a chance to make up his test, citing that he must have been having a bad day and was very upset that his grade dropped so much. He then approached me the same day in class and wanted to discuss the email. I explained again that the test is done and he needs to move forward, just working as hard as he can before the marking period ends to recoup points, but that he could not do other work to make up the grade. On Monday there was an email waiting for me from his mom weighing in on the no extra credit/no retakes policy and intimating that the test was unfairly weighted as it brought her son's grade down from an A to a B. I responded to that email sharing the information about where he lost points on his test (indicating that he should have studied harder), explaining how it's unfair to kids prepared the first time around to have an opportunity to make up the points somehow, defending the weight of my test which was 67 points and was the culmination of 3 weeks worth of work, and giving her the heads-up that college courses often base their grades on 2 tests and a paper. Today this boy visited guidance during my class. I'm not positive that it was about this grade issue, but I suspect it may have been. I did not, however, receive any emails from guidance trying to get me to modify my stance, so perhaps it was simply a coincidence. Frankly, I really want the issue to drop because it's rather annoying me that I've had to have the same conversation about this issue as many times as I have. What it comes down to is this: you did poorly on your test for whatever reason; you may end up with a B because of it; move on and try harder next marking period. It really isn't the end of the world. Maybe the next time I announce a test and give insight into what should be studied, I will be taken more seriously.
No, the problem is that young high school English teacher in affluent Bucks County, Pa., said so. In her anonymous blog.
NOW MUNROE has been suspended with pay, escorted out of the building by the principal and a security guard, and just might lose her job. For being honest.
It would seem we can put up with a society of spoiled louts and incompetents -- Hey, Rome managed it . . . until it couldn't -- but what we can't handle is the truth.
And the truth, folks, is that a lot of your kids are a-holes and cheats. Ignorant ones at that.
If you doubt what I say -- or, more importantly, what Munroe wrote -- the comments on her most "notorious" post, left after some Central Bucks East students somehow came across the blog, serve as a rather bracing quod erat demonstrandum moment.
READ ON and be educated:
HELL HATH no fury like a teenager whose self-esteem has been assaulted. Especially those who have been raised by wolves.
I will, however, award a couple of points to the commenter who upbraided Munroe's condemnation of problematic students in her blog with some of the same profanity she found objectionable in the classroom. That would be at least a middling command of logos, while I found this aggrieved student's attempts at pathos and ethos less compelling.
Then again, my wife and I were volunteers in Catholic youth ministry before Munroe even was in high school herself. We've seen it all -- and that was at church. I can only imagine. . . .
Then again, I don't have to. We have the cache of a beleaguered educator's blog from the front lines of American decline. The date: Dec. 2, 2009. It sounds about right to me:
That brings us to today. There were myriad problems with today's class proceedings; so many, in fact, that I won't even bother to circumscribe them here. For the sake of relevance, I will note only those bits that concern this lad. First, when I was checking vocabulary and another boy didn't have his, I mentioned to the unprepared kid that this is the 3rd week in a row he didn't do his work. He asked if it would hurt his grade. I told him it would, a great deal. Then the other kid chimed in and said, "Yeah! She ruined my grade last marking period." I said, "I'm sorry... I ruined your grade?" "Yeah." "No. YOU ruined your grade. It was your actions or inactions which earned you your grade. I think it's time for you to stop trying to pass the buck to other people all the time, and start taking responsibility for your own actions. All you ever do it blame others for what happens to you. You need to own it." He told me I sounded like his mom and should stop saying things like his mom would say. Then, he had his head down for most of the block. When he did finally raise it, he took out paper and--surprise!--wrote another note. After my lesson, when walking past his desk, I confiscated the letter. He tried to hold the page down. I sternly told him that he'd better let it go because I was, indeed, taking it. He tried to tell me that I had no right--that it was his letter. I said, "Actually, it's MY letter. This is MY time in MY class, and this is now MY letter." I took it and put it on my desk. I didn't even look at it. Moments later, he came up to my desk and picked it up as though to take it. I said, "You'd better put that letter back on my desk and walk away." We had a reprise of the "It's my property" conversation, but I said, "I suggest you put it down now because if you leave here with that letter you are most definitely getting written up for it." He said, "I was just going to rip it up and throw it out." I told him that I would take care of it. He then followed me to the door saying, "I'm waiting to see you rip it up. I'm watching.... Rip it." The bell rang. I fixed him with a stare and said, "This is now my letter. I will do with it what I want. The discussion is closed. Get out of my room." By this time, he was in the hall and the girl was coming over from across the hall. He said something to her like, "Yeah. I don't have the letter--" I interrupted and said, "--I have it. Now go." Then SHE started in, trying to get it from me. She goes, "Can I have my note?" I said, "No. It's my note. Goodbye." She said, looking annoyed, "But it's mine. Can't I just have it?" Me, getting more and more pissed off, "The note is mine. He wrote it in my class on my time. You two are always writing notes back and forth and texting through class. It's going to stop. You aren't getting this letter." He sort of pulled her away and said something to her. I can only assume he'd indicated the contents of the note to her because she came back, told me that she'd asked him to write it, and some other bunk. I interrupted a final time, a nanosecond from writing this chick up, too, for arguing with me, and said, "I don't know what the note says. I didn't read it and don't really care what's in it. I won't even read it. But neither of you are getting it back and I'm not going to discuss it with you further." The boy latched onto that, saying, "You didn't read it? Good. Because you'd cry. But ok, if you don't read it, good. Deal!" and pulled the girl away with him.WHAT CAN one say? Apart, of course, from "We welcome our new Chinese overlords!"
Perhaps when they take over what's left of America, it will be safe for Natalie Munroe to teach once again.