To Post or Not to Post…

is a question I have to ask myself whenever I consider putting something on social media. Articles reporting about teacher internet indiscretions like this one here might make most professionals in education, particularly classroom teachers, think twice before they click to post. Social media can be a powerful tool to connect and build our personal learning networks, but professional and personal can quickly begin to overlap.

The article outlines how a Texas teacher posted some sarcastic memes to a Pinterest account, and a parent came across them. The parent notified her school district, which led to her school officials to look into the issue. In situations like this involving social media, the lines between professional and personal are most definitely being blurred when colleagues, parents, and others within the school community are connecting through personal social media accounts. The question I find myself asking about this sort of scenario would be, are teachers held to unreasonably high standards? If so, is it fair to hold them to these higher standards? There are a ton of stories online that describe some of the situations teachers have gotten into that led to investigations and possible repercussions as a result of their posts on social media. Even the NEA’s website has a page warning teachers about online behavior. Other articles I came across, including some I had already seen prior to this week, like this one titled “When Young Teachers Go Wild on the Web”  or this one, “St. Louis Teacher’s Tweets Cause Uncertainty for Social Media and Educators”, examine the issues with teachers having information that might be available to the public.


I happened upon this infographic from Daily Genius, that had some interesting do’s and don’t about teachers interacting on social media. While there are some good rules of thumb, I was particularly amused by its suggestion to avoid bikini pictures or anything with a state of “undress”, and to keep all posts light and positive, or “keep quiet” and don’t post anything at all. 

Social-Media-Do-Donts


This infographic and article suggest that teachers should be acting and portraying themselves a certain way when using social media, even going as far as suggesting it’s inappropriate to post too frequently. This was a great time for me to question some thoughts and ideas from these articles, because just this week a parent of a current student Facebook friended me. I felt immediately uncomfortable with the idea that parents of a student I currently have could see where I might be going, what I might be doing, but more importantly, see what types of thoughts and opinions I might have about the world. In school there are certain limitations and professional standards that I adhere to completely, but do I also have to censor myself (jokes, opinions, pictures, check-ins at locations, etc.) on social media, as well? When discussing this very topic, a colleague of mine said, “Sometimes it’s like we [teachers] aren’t allowed to be human.” Privacy settings, organized lists, and general good judgement to censor yourself can help avoid a lot of problems, but if you can’t really post what you want anymore, is this portrayal of you real at all? What’s its purpose if you can’t say what you really think?

Most of the time, I can’t say what I think. Mostly because of my political and religious views. I have accepted and embraced that my social media accounts are for pictures of my children, and positive interactions with friends and family (with some healthy debate thrown in every once in a while). This here is mostly what it looks like:

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There are some exceptions, of course. I have an anonymous Twitter account to tweet about whatever I truly feel like saying, secret Pinterest boards, private Instagram account, and some restricted audiences on Facebook posts. As a teacher, keeping most of my information private is important. Even if you don’t think you have anything to hide, you really don’t know how any person will respond to a link, picture, or thought you might have expressed on a social media platform.

A final thought about this came to me today, when I looked at my “Timehop” app. Spring break pictures from senior year of college popped up, and reminded me that maybe it’s time to double check my privacy settings…

My apologies for the state of undress.
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17 thoughts on “To Post or Not to Post…

  1. I took a graduate class with our former superintendent, and she did say that teachers are held to a higher moral standard. It is especially difficult when you live in the community in which you teach. I try to be careful of what I post in the event it offends someone, even if I have all my privacy settings in place.

    I have seen colleagues that have posted things that are inappropriate; playing beer pong with students that are not of the drinking age, drinking parties, etc. Those are not role model photos that you would want to get out to the public.

    I tend to private message those fun things that I don’t want people to accidentally see.

    • I agree that sending a private message is a great way to share without crossing lines. Making sure you approve content before it’s allowed to be posted to your accounts is helpful, too!

  2. Great post and a real dilemma. I went to school as a teen where I teach. I grew up with friends who now have kids in the building I teach in. I am FB friends with a few past and current parents of students in my class. I live in the community I teach in. My life in and out of school are very much intertwined and sometimes I wonder if I should remove everyone but family from my FB.

    • We have a TON of this in our school, too. So many teachers are friends with parents in their normal social lives, so it does create some questions as to what we can share.

  3. Is it our professional duty to alarm other colleagues, especially teachers who are either new to the profession or maybe new to the district of these expectations? I have seen postings from teachers that I find a bit unprofessional, and I want to say something, but is it really any of my business?
    I love the infographic that you posted! I want to print that out and post it our faculty room because I know some violators of the “don’t”, including people who we might hold to an even higher standard than teachers.

    • These are great questions! I agree it would be hard for me to say something about a post another professional decided they should put up. Once a close friend accidentally posted a picture I absolutely knew wasn’t meant for Facebook, and I let her know about it. She took it down immediately, and I was glad I said something!

  4. Very interesting, and certainly a grey area. I’ve always viewed teachers, as a whole, as having (or at least practicing) a better moral compass than average. Of course many parents are going to hold their kids’ teachers to a certain standard, justified or not. However, I don’t think your (teachers’) lives outside of the school grounds or school functions should be up for debate whatsoever. Obviously that is somewhat naive to say, but in theory, if you are doing a good job in the classroom/planning lessons/etc based upon the subject matter, nothing else should be under scrutiny.

    Now, I’m sure that’s too ideological and doesn’t really help because: parents.
    You would think that the values and beliefs most important to parents would be taught at home. You’d also think that parents would understand that their children will inevitably be exposed to people that hold a separate set of beliefs, customs, and social “lines” than their own (appalling!), and would be prepared to explain this to their children.
    However, if parents feel that they themselves aren’t doing a sufficient enough job at instilling in their children the things beyond subject matter (religious beliefs, political views, yada yada) that they feel are important, and if it’s that direly crucial to shield them, there are private and home school options.

    Unfortunately, as is the case with police officers, it seems like teachers’ jobs are only getting harder and being placed under more scrutiny lately.

    • It’s refreshing to hear from someone who isn’t a teacher, that you think teachers can do their job properly despite how they might maintain different schools of thought, hobbies, lifestyles, etc. than most parents. I think teachers are sometimes held to higher standards, because (like you said): parents.

      As a parent, I also want my kids to have a teacher who truly cares about them and their well-being, so I remind myself that’s where most parents are coming from. I love my students, and want parents to feel their kids are in good hands. Unfortunately, I think some parents forget that the heavy duty work instilling morals, beliefs, and values has to take place at home. Like you said, you would like to think people lay the groundwork for their kids at home, but sometimes teachers help take part in this step of child development. With that being said, sometimes the most rewarding things we experience as teachers are those moral “wins” we see when our students do the right thing!

    • John,

      I agree that our lives outside of school should not be a topic of debate, however, it seems that teachers’ lives have recently been a huge topic in the news lately, and not necessarily in a positive way. In addition, I feel that parents are expecting teachers to teach their children more than academics, and that makes it increasingly difficult to shield our opinions.

  5. Erin,
    I really enjoyed your post this week. You included some valid points and I like how you incorporated pictures pertaining to your topic. I was always concerned about what showed up on my social media account when I started teaching. In my early years college though, I didn’t seem to care, but as soon as I was going for jobs, I did my best to clean it up.
    Unfortunately, teachers today are held to a very high standard and have to be very careful with what they post of say on the internet. In my district, we can have pictures posted to our school’s social media accounts, but we can share our awesome ideas or projects with any other teacher site. We have rules about the use of social media and some times they get followed, and other times they do not.
    I really like your last statement in your blog. Teachers have to tip toe through the tulips and walk lightly through everything, but if any person (in a more important position) does something that is a criminal, they get a slap on the wrist (most of the time). Being a teacher today is far more difficult than it was year’s ago.
    Matt

    • I definitely agree, Matt! I would hate for a parent or administrator come across a picture of me that makes them question how I do my job. Everyone has a different idea of what is appropriate/inappropriate and where lines need to be drawn.

  6. Hi Erin! Someone else in our class interestingly brought up the same topic, which I commented on earlier. In shared a story about my college aged son who recently had pictures on his Facebook timeline which I thought were a bit sketchy. The thing is that he didn’t pot them..a friend did. In my opinion, these kind of issues are vital to be sharing with our students now, no matter what profession they end up choosing. We all need to be aware of our Digital Footprints and consider how they are being received by others. I shared this great clip from the Ellen show which I think is worthy of sharing again. It will give you a laugh if nothing else! https://youtu.be/SCaKuAdKumA

  7. Erin, I really enjoyed reading your blog post. I loved the pictures you added throughout your post and the infographic is really interesting to read and eye catching! You obviously caught a lot of attention of our classmates and struck up some good conversations! I have to say that I am the same as you when it comes to my social media accounts. I am very careful what I post and I keep a lot private. I am also glad to not work in the same district as where I live. I am glad I can keep my professional and personal life separate. I don’t think it is a good idea at all to be friends with parents on social media. I don’t even consider it until the kids are done with high school! Thanks for the great post!

  8. Erin… I liked reading your post. I was our Association president for 3 years, vp for 3 years and grievance chair for 4 years. This issue is one that we constantly educated younger members on. Issues like “do not post pictures of yourself in yoga pants and a sports bra in the school fitness room with students around (not a physical education teacher). You called off sick and then posted a picture at the Superbowl victory parade during the school day! Just this week I emailed our current president about a Facebook post I saw one of our teachers make about the election and what they were saying in the classroom (not a social studies teacher). Often times the lines are drawn in sand. What is acceptable in one district is not in another and even what is acceptable now may or may not be next year. I have learned that “good judgement” is a relative concept depending upon who you ask.

  9. Hi Erin,

    This is a topic hits close to home for me. I began pursuing my teaching degree at Millersville as a “second career” at the dawn of the social media phenomena. A fellow Millersville student who was a year ahead of me in the program was dismissed from student teaching for posting a picture of her in a pirate costume with a drunk in her hand labeled “Drunken Pirate”. Her story served as a cautionary tale to all future teachers.

    Even closer to home was a colleague that I had worked with who had befriended a number of students on Facebook. Unfortunately he like or shared a Pinterest page called “Boobs and other interesting things” or something of the sort and a parent complained, costing him his job. At the time my two step-sons were attending the school where I worked and I had “friended” a number of their friends because I was there coach or I knew them on a personal level. After my colleague was let go I promptly unfriended everyone under the age of 18 and ensured my privacy settings were appropriate.

  10. Much of what I want to say has already been said and for the most part I agree. I’m not sure whether this should make us feel better or not, but it is more than just the teaching industry who is scrutinizing employee’s social media. I remember hearing about an interview where they asked the candidate to either change their profile settings to public or give the company the password to their account (I can’t remember which) so they could review what this person posted on social media!

    Overall I think it is asinine that our efficacy in the classroom is judged by what we post on social media. I’m sure that there are some teachers who have a truly private, private life that would shock some people but they don’t share or discuss it in public and are still great teachers. Our society seems to think that anything they learn about someone else gives them the right to comment or judge.

    That being said, I have had to unfriend colleagues in the past because THEY were friends with parents and students. I know so much of what goes on FB can be seen by your friends of friends and I just had no desire to take that risk.

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