Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Think Before You Post

By Steve Katz

I’m sure that many of you have already heard about Natalie Munroe, the Pennsylvania teacher who made some negative comments about here students on her personal blog. If not, I’ll give you some links so you can catch up on what has now become an international news story, and has Ms. Munroe preparing for a legal battle to be able to return to her job.

A few facts about the incident:

  • She says she was blogging for her friends & not a larger audience. (Seven people were following her blog.)
  • Her blog post that got her into trouble was posted over a year ago.
  • The posts in question did not name any students, and did not include her last name.
  • She has been suspended from her job.

There are a couple of points I’d like to make about what happened:

  • When you post something on the Internet it can be read by anyone with Internet access.
  • Even when content is removed from the Internet it is VERY likely that it has already been archived by Google and other search engines.
  • Regardless of what Munroe meant, people make their own interpretations.

What we can learn from this:

  • Regardless of whether or not this falls under free speech, Munroe’s is paying a high price for her comments.
  • Once you post something on the Internet you lose control of it.
  • What you post on the Internet probably won’t go away, even when you delete it.
  • Everything you do on the Internet contributes to your digital reputation.

Think before you post.


Munroe Defends Comments – CNN
ABC News Report
Munroe defends herself on her blog
Chris Lehmann’s Open Letter to Munroe – Make sure you read this.


  1. Blogging negative comments about your students is a bad idea. That's what the staff room is for.

  2. Even if it is a bad idea, that's what free speech is for.

    What gets me is the fact that she's not given a second chance. Blogging is a new medium (especially for her) and learning the boundaries will sometimes mean making mistakes. A poor judgement call that didn't actually list individual students is a very gray area and while I agree on erring on the side of caution, I also believe in protecting the rights of workers.

  3. I just did an "internet safety" lesson with 5th graders. They got the whole "words can get misinterpreted" issue. They also understood that it's possible for anyone to see something they've posted, even if they think it's private.

  4. I thought this really related to an online education class I am taking right now. We are learning about teacher written blogs in sharing tips and stories about the classroom. When I heard this story I thought the timing was perfect. One thing to always remember in which I tend to forget is that ANYONE can see what is on the internet, even when we don't think so! I still feel that this teacher shouldnt be punished because she did not mention the school or students, and did not advertise this in a public way. I now know from now on to be more careful, even though I think she did nothing wrong.

  5. I'm always happy to defend free speech, blogging by teachers, etc etc etc. (I can't imagine that anyone reading your blog wouldn't!)

    The problem I have in this case is that, after reading her blog post (and others by her in the Google cache), it really looks like she's just not a good fit for a teaching position. She was frustrated when students asked questions, and she never posted about the good things or the motivational moments that make teaching great. She wrote that she hated individual students, and called them airheads. (A lot of her post isn't being reprinted, so I encourage anyone who hasn't read the full text to do so before developing an opinion.) She didn't come back later and edit those thoughts, or disavow them in a later post. There's really no indication that this was a "crime of passion" after a horrible week; it looks like these are her real beliefs about teaching.

    I think good teachers (and even just adequate teachers) have an internal spark of motivation that's fed by student successes, and based on what I saw of her writing, I didn't see that. That doesn't mean she's a bad person, and that doesn't mean her right to write is in question. I just think this situation forced administrators to ask if teaching is a good match for her. Again based on what I've read, I'd be very surprised if they weren't already contemplating that question.


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