Guest Post via @wmjackson: Caution for Teachers That Blog In The Digital Age

My Quest To Teach
My Quest To Teach by William Jackson




Caution for Teachers That Blog In The Digital Age
by William Jackson, M.Ed.

Many teachers believe they have the absolute First Amendment right to post anything they want on social networking sites, including party pix and diatribes about the boss. After all, they’re on their own time and using their own resources.
“Social Networking Nightmares” By Mike Simpson

Words of caution for teachers that participate in Social Media: There should be serious
consideration on how words are perceived and interpreted as a professional educator.
The ability to communicate in the heat of frustration has created avenues for educators
to be cautious about what they post and how they are interpreted as professionals.
Social Media has opened doors that allow communication on digital platforms that
are instant and expansive. Teachers need to be cautious that the words they use, memes they post, and replies they provide put them into a light of potential criticism and public scrutiny.

Many variables come into play during the school day when engaging with students: the elevation of emotions that teachers display from the joys of students being successful, students struggling to learn, the growth of social influences that are displaying in classrooms. Teachers are under stresses, but they must be able to manage their Social Media posts.

The potential use of technology with inappropriate and unprofessional comments
from teachers using electronic messaging throws great strains in a career that demand
professional behaviors and accountability. Teachers have implemented the use of online
social resources that allow for connections during the traditional school hours. One
resource Facebook is a social network for connecting with multiple people and
instant communication.

The danger is in the height of emotions instead of teachers using their training in
classroom management. Some are using their phones to lash out and make posts
that can cause them to be administratively disciplined, put on unpaid leave. and even
lose their teaching certificates. Teachers should never discuss personal information about their students, other teachers, and even administrators. Teachers should never criticize educational peers or share political, religious, and cultural views that could hurt their career even when not in school. The perceptions have the potential to have a career effect and ripple effect across the educational career.

Professional behavior should be exhibited at all times. Teachers are “called to a higher sense of responsibility” stated by a North Carolina teacher where several teachers have
been fired because of their Facebook entries about students, parents, and even educational peers. The “content’ of writing causes pause in reflecting about the right to free speech and the right to post content on social sites. The challenge comes in question when there is reference to the student’s ability to perform in the
classroom, color of the student, cultural background, and academic ability.
Teachers need to understand there is a First Amendment Right addressing freedom of speech, but how is this presented in the responsibility to be professional, compassionate, and sensitive to the feelings of students and parents.

Common sense issues are interconnected, teachers should not post things that are private and confidential about a student. Even if blowing off steam a wrong wording or TMI (too much information) can lead to privacy issues of students and families.

Over 25 years of public education as I have experienced, there is an increase of teachers that express their opinions, emotions, and ideas on digital platforms that do not think
before they post.  What a teacher may think as funny and harmless can be hurtful and damaging in the present and the future.

Words of wisdom when posting about the classroom; if you feel comfortable saying it
to parents and in public then you should be able to say it in a Blog or on FB.
Technology can break down walls and allow for collaboration, particularly with parents,
the community and with educational peers. Teachers should always be cautious about
their online content especially if it relates to their work with students.

As I have learned from other’s experiences and mistakes, things in your personal life
can and do relate to your professional life and vice versa. If you have certain opinions
about students and parents, it is best not to post them online. When teachers were fired
for their Facebook comments in North Carolina, Tom Hutton an attorney for the National School Boards Association stated, “this is a new frontier in education, where technological and social norms are outpacing law and policy.”

The potential is just too dangerous professionally and personally. School districts now have policies on digital engagement to protect the district from legal actions, but not the individual educator or administrator. All teachers, teacher assistants, administrators,
cafeteria workers, custodians and event school volunteers must be smart, be professional, and be compassionate of the feelings of others. Teachers carry power—our words can educate, inspire or they can damage/destroy hopes, dreams, and feelings. It is up to individual teachers to choose how they want to be remembered or forgotten.


Six Ways to Avoid Those Social Media Landmines
by Gwyneth Jones



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