High School teacher Natalie Munro has, evidently, caused quite a stir recently with her blog posted rants about the many shortcomings of her students and her students’ parents. From the National Post, ‘Frightfully dim’: Teacher suspended for blog insulting students,

Although she didn’t name her school or any students, she used her real first name and initial and had a photo of herself. In a completely unsurprising turn of events, school officials found her out.

Parents, administrators and students alike weren’t too impressed with how she described her pupils:

  • “A complete and utter jerk in all ways”
  • “Although academically okay your child has no other redeeming qualities”
  • “I hear the trash company is hiring”
  • “I didn’t realize one person could have this many problems”
  • “There’s no other way to say this, I hate your kid”
  • “Rat-like”
  • “Dresses like a streetwalker”
  • “Frightfully dim”

Indeed, such candidly negative descriptions of one’s students seems to exemplify virtues contrary to what one would expect from a teacher. Although, I wonder if Munro’s crime was not so much that she has negative feelings about some of her students as that she committed those feelings to print (cyber-print, as it were). How many of Munro’s colleagues have similar feelings about some of their students? For that matter, how many students have negative feelings about some of their teachers? Yeah. You know what I’m talking about.

Could it be, however, that those criticizing Munro are over-simplifying the problem at hand? Consider what Susan Cairn stated on her blog Quiet,

I want to talk about Munro’s view of quiet and shy students. Here, according to her blog entry of January 21, 2010, is what she wished she could put on their report cards:

  • “A kid that has no personality.”
  • “She just sits there emotionless for an entire 90 minutes, staring into the abyss, never volunteering to speak or do anything.”
  • “Shy isn’t cute in 11th grade; it’s annoying. Must learn to advocate for himself instead of having Mommy do it.”

Munro seemed to have no understanding of how tough a place the typical American high school can be for introverts — like an all-day cocktail party without any alcohol. She believed that these kids should suck it up and act like everyone else. And she was right, to a certain extent; we all need to fake it a little, extroverts too. I’ve met many introverted kids who are thriving and happy, and most of them have learned how to adopt an extroverted persona when need be.

It seems that what we have here is a classic example of the diversity of the human psyche. Contained within a typical classroom are students (and teachers) of various personality types, learning styles, and intelligence levels, who also bring with them the baggage of life – both the good and the bad. If this complexity exists, then it should be no surprise that it manifests itself in equally complex ways.  Thus, a “kid that has no personality” may indeed not have a personality, or he may have mental issues, or he may be extremely apathetic, or he may tend towards not publicly displaying emotion, or any combination of the above.

Is Munro unable to discern the simple fact that humans have differing personalities? It does seem difficult to comprehend that one who is used to seeing classrooms full of new students, each year, would be so myopic. In our own home school household we have seen this clear distinction in differing learning styles, as related to personality differences, with a total sampling of only 2!

If, in fact, Munro is an extrovert who has her blinders on with regards to the diversity of human personality traits, then it would be in her best interest to educate herself on this subject – to expand her horizons – indeed – maybe she should think outside the box.

Yet, before we dismiss Munro’s opinions of her students, and condemn her for having the audacity to express them, could it be she has thought outside the box and is now alerting us to another problem in our midst? Could it be that, within the walls of our public schools, there are students who are lazy, whiny, apathetic, and disrespectful?

From News.com.au,

“My students are out of control,” Ms Munroe, who has taught 10th, 11th and 12th grades, wrote in one post.

“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.”

And from Yahoo!News,

“They get angry when you ask them to think or be creative,” Munroe said of her students in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. “The students are not being held accountable.”

Munroe pointed out that she also said positive things, but she acknowledges that she did write some things out of frustration — and of a feeling that many kids today are being given a free pass at school and at home.

“Parents are more trying to be their kids’ friends and less trying to be their parent,” Munroe said, also noting students’ lack of patience. “They want everything right now. They want it yesterday.”

Some may say, in response to the last two article quotes, “well, that’s not news”. Yes, it is not news that today’s students are “out of control”. Yet, it would be too easy to scapegoat the reason why: drugs, being coddled, lack of federal money, teacher’s unions, extrovert / introvert, parents, lack of parents, the myth of adolescence, learning styles, technology, affluence, etc. Rather than a single reason, could it be “all of the above”?

I think that with a problem rooted in complexity, the solution will reflect a similar complexity.

  • Teachers need to exercise patience with problem students, learn how differing personality styles affect differing learning styles, and display a genuine interest in their students – among other things.
  • Parents need to get involved in the lives of their children, not cater to their children, discipline their children, and love their children with a tough, yet gentle, love – among other things.
  • Students need to grow up, exercise respect, study, work, and think – among other things.
  • Society needs to stop blessing adolescent activities as normal, stop treating young adults as children, stop putting the notion of “self-esteem” on a pedestal, stop throwing money in the wrong direction, and start demanding results from students, parents, and teachers – among other things.

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