Social Media and Teachers – Can You Tweet Like Everyone Else?

 

Imagine you just finished teaching your rowdy class of 7th graders.  It was a really bad day. None of the kids were participating and one student had to be sent out of the classroom for referring to you in the foulest of ways. Of course, to top it all off, your disciplinary measures caused your popularity rating to seriously slip.

 

You are officially in a bad mood.

 

Now aside from planning on how to better manage your classroom, you have several choices to relieve your immediate frustration and anger.

 

You can meditate – breathe deeply and visualize joyous and relaxing scenarios. You can hit the gym and get the endorphins pumping. Or maybe have a glass of wine and listen to some relaxing music.

 

But under no circumstances, should you be venting, even anonymously, on any online medium. Telling your friends and family on Facebook or Twitter about how your students are total jerks is almost certain to create trouble for your career as a teacher.

 

But why you might ask, are teachers any different than other citizens? Is there no freedom of speech for teachers?

 

These are fair questions. However, let’s take a look at several reasons that should give you pause before tweeting about your students.

 

Precedent for Dismissal or Suspension


A recent article in the New York Times discussed several cases where teachers were suspended for making negative comments about their students on their blogs, Facebook pages or on Twitter.

 

Of course, there are those that support these teachers. But until the dust settles and a precedent has been set in favor of teachers speaking out online, it would be prudent and pragmatic to avoid any potential controversy.

 

Public Profile for Professionals


There has been a major discussion about doctors and appropriate online behavior. Aside from legal issues surrounding the breach of patient privacy and what exactly constitutes a breach, there are several other factors to consider.

 

Imagine that an anonymous doctor tweets about treating a very embarrassing and private medical condition. They don’t mention the patient name or location, but they joke about the patient and their predicament.

 

Patients with similar conditions can now read what this doctor wrote and in the future, they are likely to feel uncomfortable with their own doctor as a result.

 

Doctors hold a venerated position in society. Mere mortals place their trust in them when it comes to healthcare. By speaking crudely and insensitively about patients (even if privacy is maintained), doctors harm their own professional standing in the eyes of the public. Additionally, patients might even withhold critical information, due to a fear of the doctor sharing that information with others.

 

Similarly, teachers have (or should have) an honored position in society. By acting inappropriately online, they demean themselves and their profession. Students and parents will not be sympathetic of a teacher’s inability to manage a classroom or their own emotions.

 

Additionally, students are extremely sensitive. If they feel the teacher has insulted them, they will be much less receptive to learning from that teacher and possibly others as well. In their mind, they might lump all educators together, as two-faced fakers who act professionally in the class, but don’t truly care about students, as evidenced by their online comments.

 

We know this is a hot topic, so although we have taken one side of the debate, we would love to hear your thoughts on this matter. Please share real-life experiences so we call can gain insight from it.

 

 

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