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.
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:
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…