I listened to Lisa Parisi and Maria Knee and Matthew Tabor discussing the public/private life of educators on the EdTechTalk weekly show podcast #19. The discussion revolved around what is a reasonable expectation for teacher deportment when they are away from their jobs and, given the expansion of education online and just the nature of access to information, how the internet influence affects teachers and what things they might run into.
I really thought this was a great discussion and you can read what was said at thewebsite.One reason I think it is so good is because it really fits in well with one of the reasons that I am thinking about moving away from my educational blogs and moving my blogging to another location. Exposure on the web. It’s a fine line that many educators walk when they begin to discuss education in a blog or through various other social networking formats. For me, being an administrator, I’m struggling with the need for some separation from the area where I am as I write about education.
Also, one of the things that I believe has become prominent in society is having people in promininent positions be publically exposed and watching those who are in prominent positions being caught doing something wrong and being exposed. There is a kind of thrill that seems to grab the public attention when someone who has a prominent position is caught doing something or when someone in a position of trust is caught breaking that trust. With teachers being in that category, there is more intrigue and more sensationalism when someone in that type of position is “taken down a peg or two.” So educators, who do, I believe, want to been seen as professionals, face a more diffiucult situation as the idea of school becomes more ambiguous as the walls of school slowly fade and morph.
As people use the social networks and a person’s electronic footprint is developed, people need to remember that what goes online is permanent and can be found, somewhere. So as educators become involved in discussions, they need to be aware that what they say can be found and can be used against them in some way. From experience, if someone wants to create a problem for you, then they can do it.
Does this mean that teachers should not be allowed to express their opinions or views? Not at all but, like it or not, there is a higher expectation of teachers and other people in similar positions. Pictures of drunken escapades on some FB will not go over well. That’s why teachers must be very aware of what they are doing even if they are not in school. Although they do have a life of their own, there is in most teacher’s contracts or acts somewhere a section that discusses the actions of teachers not detracting or putting in poor standing the profession or the employer. Teachers need to understand this reality and then make their decisions accordingly. I’m not sure what or how things will play out as the lives of people begin to be more and more exposed on the ever-growing internet. I’m sure many of the things that are now on the internet that people think are “funny” now will not be so in a few years, especially when they are looking for jobs or are parents themselves.
So, should a teacher be held a higher set of expectations than other people? That’s a tough question to answer. It’s even more difficult to find any type of answer that will please the different groups who are impacted by this. As much as a teacher may not want to think that what they do has an impact on the school or others, the reality is that an isolated incident may not but ….. As an administrator, I am even more keenly aware that what I do is being viewed by people around. So, as I make decisions and meet with people and learn different things, I’m even more keenly aware that whatever I do will be reviewed at some level by people in the community. Because there is nothing I can do about the situation and there is no way to change it, that is something I have come to accept. Being an educator in a small community, that’s how things work. I use to think that teachers in larger centers had it easier because they could leave the school and become anonymous in the mass of people. Unfortunately, the new medias have changed that, although not just for teachers but everyone. Teachers need to be much more technology aware and know what they are doing when they post and add things to their social networks.
Maybe that is one reason that teachers are so hesitant of embracing new technologies. They hear of the stories of teachers being caught on line doing something wrong or being exposed online or they see what happens to other people who have incriminating things posted about them online and they really want to stay away.
For me, it has made me realise that expressing my own opinion or expressing my own feelings comes at a cost and I need to weigh that cost against other things like local integrity and personal relationships. So I’m here, looking to again take up my blogging habits, wondering if this is the place to do it. I know it may affect my readership but, hey, this is the vocation to which I’ve been called.