Can Teachers Trash Students?

A high school teacher in the US set off a maelstrom when her students discovered her blog castigating their behaviour – not their grammar or spelling skills. Most of her posts were about mundane everyday things and she wrote for almost two years with all of nine followers when things changed – abruptly. The posts that stung vented on the frustrations in the class of dealing with disinterest, negative attitudes and a lack of motivation. While she did not name any of the students, her descriptions left no doubts about whom she was referring to. And in this age of instant celebrity, she has gone from unknown to highly seen in just the space of a couple of weeks. The affected students were very vocal in their criticism of the teacher and this was picked by the media and blown into a big story.

In her own words – I’ve been to New York City 3 times in 3 days; today I went to Philadelphia for some satellite stuff. I’ve been on Justice with Judge Jeanine, Fox and Friends, CBS 3, 6 ABC, NBC 10, Good Morning America, CNN, WFMZ 69. I’ve talked on radio programs in Toronto, San Francisco, London (the BBC), and Philadelphia 1210. I’ve sat with reporters from the Intelligencer, the Inquirer, the NY Post, Time magazine, Reuters, and the Associated Press.

The teacher has since lost her job pending an inquiry into the incidents. She has removed the offending posts. And while the debate rages online, the question that divides is whether the teacher was right to rage in public about her frustrations. Well, if students can be ruthless about the teacher’s abilities and most of them are much savvier about using the internet- with sites like RateMy Teacher, why can’t teachers be allowed an equal opportunity to be heard? Even on the site mentioned above, teachers have no opportunity to log in and rebut the ratings or defend themselves. Like a lot of sites where collective ranting is encouraged, it means that the genuinely good teachers will be crucified if they make a mistake. Or if they are lucky, they will be ignored. Teachers are like canaries in the mine. They know first hand if the involvement of students is on the decline – and it is a message we would do well to take seriously