Dr. June Talvite-Siple lost her $92,000-a-year job as the supervisor of a high school math and science program. The former teacher resigned amid the furor she created after she posted on her Facebook page that the residents of her Cohasset, Massachusetts, community were "arrogant and snobby.” She went on to state that she was "not looking forward to another year at Cohasset schools." Apparently, some of her teenaged students understand something that quite a few homeschooling parents do not. Student Terry MacCormack said, "It's not smart, but if you are in professional position, maybe you shouldn't be putting what you really feel about your job or whatever on Facebook." You can read the entire story here.
School teacher Christine Rubino faces a similar problem. As reported here, the day after a 12-year-old girl drowned at a beach while on a class field trip, Ms. Rubino, a fifth grade teacher, posted on her Facebook page, "After today, I’m thinking the beach is a good trip for my class. I hate their guts." When a Facebook friend asked whether or not Ms. Rubino would “throw a life jacket to little Kwami," one of her students, she replied, "No, I wouldn’t for a million dollars.” Ms. Rubino was taken out of her classroom pending a Department of Education hearing.
It is very easy to become frustrated, angry, resentful, and disillusioned while teaching professionally. It’s a difficult job. Teacher attrition rates are staggering. Half of teachers leave the profession after only five years. As difficult as the job is, it does not excuse the comments that teachers are making online, neither the comments quoted above nor the ones mentioned in yesterday’s blog. Whether simply venting frustration or sharing true feelings, posting comments on the internet is inappropriate, unprofessional, and unwise. Thankfully, there are public school administrators like Ken Blackstone, a Prince William County Schools spokesman, who told the Washington Post, "as public employees, we all understand the importance of living a public life above reproach."
These teachers are making comments about students. They are making comments about our children. And our children are not stupid. It only takes two clicks of a mouse on the The Apple forums mentioned in yesterday’s post to find each teacher’s name and the city and state in which they teach. If I can find those comments and the names of the teachers writing them, students more computer savvy than I am can find them. Once a student locates them and shares them with their friends, the teacher loses all credibility in the classroom. That directly affects classroom control, as well as the ability to deliver content in a meaningful manner. What student is going to listen to a teacher who has commented on line that his or her students are stupid?
I was stunned to read the response to yesterday’s post as discussed by homeschooling parents here. Disappointed, really. I was disappointed that anyone would make excuses for the comments I reported. I am equally afraid to ask the question, “Why?” I’m not certain that I want to know the answers. Did someone not think through this situation thoroughly? Do they not understand how comments such as these affect children? Has our society become so crass that postings such as the ones I’ve documented are now acceptable? Are homeschooling parents looking past some teacher’s online comments because they agree? Would they say these things about their own children? Would they accept having these things written about their child by their child’s teacher if their child was in a public school? I have a dozen more questions, but for once I am glad that there are very few comments left on this blog. I really do not want to read the answers.
I was also disappointed that yesterday's post was viewed simply as an attack on teachers. That’s silly, but apparently I did not write the post as well as I should have. I know from firsthand experience that the vast majority of teachers do not write derogatory comments about students online. That wasn’t the point. The NEA and their supporters believe that public schools are superior to private and home education. No matter how poorly public schools perform, no matter how many problems are documented in the media, no matter how many crass or vulgar or inappropriate comments are posted online, supporters continue to believe that those public schools are head and shoulders above any other choice. They will take away your choice to educate your children at home if they have the opportunity to do so.
I reject their claim. I reject their claim that public education is superior to home education in all instances. I hold as one example the comments that teachers post online. I do not speak about my children in the angry manner I have documented teachers writing about their students. I do not know of any homeschooling parents who would. I did not speak about my students that way when I taught professionally. I am surprised anyone would find it acceptable for teachers to write about students in the manner some teachers choose to write. I reject any excuses for them doing so. I am grateful that there are public school teachers, administrators, and school boards who recognize the unacceptable and take action to stop it.