Dangerous Blogging?

The case of Natalie Munroe has certainly caught my attention.  After all, I’m a teacher and a blogger, and my blog is not remotely anonymous.  People know who I am and where I teach.

And it’s not like I never complain here; I do (and will).  I kvetch about the CSAP and curriculum and parents.  I have a whole rant on my old blog about “how to survive Mrs. Reed’s English class.”  (It includes such instructions as: “If Mrs. Reed tells you to ‘write this down,’ WRITE IT DOWN.”)

I will say that I don’t generally bitch about my students here, and the reasons for that are twofold: 1) I love all my students and genuinely like probably 98% of them, and 2) my blog is not remotely anonymous, and I need my job.  So when I have real little turkeys (like the one who cussed me out in front of the whole class last year and was, in fact, removed from my roster), I don’t serve it up hot here.  If I had written about the event last year, I do not think I would have used the word “turkey” to describe him.

I don’t know anything about Ms Munroe, her school, or her students, so I can’t speak for her.  I certainly get frustrated when I feel my students aren’t giving me everything they’ve got, but most of the time, I don’t think they know what they’ve got.  They live in a country where being a critical thinker is “elitist” and where reality for many successful professional adults is determined primarily by what they “feel” to be true rather than anything at all verifiable.  The kids are just taking their cues from their culture, and I can’t despise them for that.  Besides, my job is to push them beyond that as far as I can get them to go, and they won’t let me do that if they don’t trust me.  Kids aren’t stupid; they know if the teacher dislikes them, and then there goes the trust.  At least, that’s what I have found to be true in my classroom.

We had parent/teacher conferences last night, and I am sensing a change on the horizon.  Three parents, with no prompting from me, expressed dismay at the quality of writing they see their children producing at school.  I have more D’s and F’s than I’ve ever had, and I actually had parents thanking me for being so demanding.  Say what??? They’ve caught on.  All the puppy-kitty writing their children have been doing to prepare them for the CSAP has left them with skills that will never withstand what is expected in the first year of college.

I wonder how long it will take our central administration and the school board to figure that out as they continue to gut the curriculum of anything of substance.  We are phasing out the novel, but we have short story unit for next year where the two works currently recommended are actually chapters from two novels: The Kite Runner and Tenth Grade.  In the instruction, it says to tell kids that because of the length of short stories, they often don’t have exposition.  Where do these people get their degrees?  Short stories all have exposition.  Chapters from novels often don’t because the exposition is elsewhere in the novel.  That’s why kids should read the whole novel, nitwits.  As for writing, who needs evidence and analysis?  It’s not on the CSAP, because a state test can’t accommodate research, so all we’re supposed to teach is style.  No wonder parents are distressed.  I am, too.

About admin

Paula is an author of historical fiction as well as a wife, mom, and teacher.
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10 Responses to Dangerous Blogging?

  1. BlackPhi says:

    I hope I’ve misunderstood you: a short story module using chapters from full-length novels? Surely only as a comparison of how the two are utterly different, highlighting features that make the short story work standalone and those that make the chapter part of a greater whole.

    • admin says:

      Well, that might be useful, mightn’t it, BlackPhi? No. If I were to follow the unit instructions (which I assuredly will not), I would present those two pieces of writing as short stories.

  2. Neal says:

    Paula, I enjoy reading your blog, and particularly love reading about your love for your students, and passion for teaching. Please keep that up, our children and our society, need more teachers like you!

  3. BlackPhi says:

    Hopefully the pendulum will swing back. The worry is that the best of the experienced teachers will burn out just holding on to what is good, before they get the chance to pass their wisdom on to a new generation allowed to teach again.

    • admin says:

      I worry about that, too. My son started off studying to be a teacher, but he’s changed directions, and for his sake, I am relieved, though he would have made a great one.

  4. Fowl Ideas says:

    Whenever one of my co-workers gets frustrated, I laugh at them and say, “I know what’s bothering you. You actually expect things to work as advertised.”

    A thousand pardons for appearing to diminish the importance of your chosen profession, but the public school system has long since ceased to be an institution devoted to educating the young. It is now a massive government bureaucracy that tries to be all things to all people by supplying a bewildering variety of social services, often in the most economically inefficient manner possible.

    I didn’t make that up. That was the expressed opinion of one of our local school committee members who has since decided to pursue other interests. I guess he’d had enough.

    • admin says:

      I disagree, FI. I know many, many educators who are busting their butts educating kids. I currently have son who is a product of our public schools and is doing very well in college. He is happy with the direction of his life.

      I even think the people in our central administration mean well, they just place way too much faith in a single, flawed method of gathering data and they have no idea how to really effectively analyze the data they have. There is such pressure to come up with a single, easy way to measure the quality of education when we should be looking at a body of evidence. We are also too quick to jump on bandwagons, completely tossing out tried-and-true methods and curricula.

      Honestly, I don’t consider “one of our local school committee members” a credible source. Schools are faced with a bewildering variety of social needs that must be met if we are to educate kids, and you’re going to have to do a whole lot more homework to prove to me that they do it in “the most economically inefficient manner possible.”

      It is just such unsubstantiated blanket statements that have allowed some of this to happen. Tell people “our schools are in trouble,” and they go scrambling to take something that was flawed but not broken and completely dismantle it. I do concede that some schools are seriously broken. I just look at our school, which had higher test scores before we started our “reform,” and think it’s clear we’re going the wrong way. We need to get back on track, not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  5. Fowl Ideas says:

    I agree with your claim that many educators are “busting their butts educating kids.” Individual teachers aren’t the problem.

    Our nation’s public school system is a confusing patchwork of political priorities too often guided by grandiose, ill defined pronouncements like “no child left behind.” Children are not uniform batches of raw material that can be molded to some arbitrary standard dreamed up by a federal or state bureaucrat. Children are the products of parents, many of whom are barely qualified to raise hampsters. Schools are locally funded and managed, yet somehow are expected to comply with and finance every dumb idea that pops into the heads of election year conmen.

    Individual teachers are not the problem. The school system as an institution is badly in need of reform and no one with the time to address the problem appears to be so motivated.

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