Dennis Walcott is set to put his foot down about teachers who friend students on Facebook and other social media sites. His reasoning?
“They don’t want to be put in a situation that could compromise them or be misinterpreted.”
And how does cracking down on friending students on social media prevent this?
Teachers will always be misinterpreted, misjudged and compromised whether or not we have a Facebook, whether or not there are students on our Facebook if we do.
I have a Facebook that I rarely use. There are no current students on it, although I have many graduates listed as “friends”. It does not mean they are my “friends”. The same goes for everyone listed as a “friend” on my Facebook page. Like most people, I have very few real friends and a whole slew of casual associates. I do not talk to anybody on Facebook and I cannot remember the last time I was interested enough to look through someone else’s profile.
Here is my suggestion to Dennis Walcott, as well as anyone else who thinks teachers should live like monks: get over yourself.
A teacher can be misinterpreted for something they say on Facebook whether or not there are students listed as their friends. The upcoming 3020a hearing that I have been advertising is one such incident. Whether or not this teacher had current students on her page is irrelevant to the frivolous charges she is facing.
What Dennis Walcott should be saying is: “teachers should stay off Facebook, period.”
As a matter of fact, teachers should stay off the streets, the supermarkets, the bars, the churches and every other public place, since anything they do out there can be misinterpreted as well. Teachers should not make any jokes while in class, the teacher’s lounge or the administrator’s office.
There should be an official social media policy issued by the Department of Education. The grey area that exists now gives administrators too much latitude to screw around with teachers’ careers.
Teachers are human beings. They get angry, sad, depressed, sarcastic, happy, frustrated, etc. just like everyone else. As time goes on, I get the sense that people expect teachers to be more and more superhuman. While parents are perfectly free to curse, drink, hit, spit, fight and keep Facebook pages with whomever they see fit, teachers are expected to be “role models” 24 hours a day, with all of the responsibility and financial poverty that entails.
As a country, our Puritanical hypocrisy masks a not-so-subtle depravity. A teacher has students listed as “friends” on Facebook? It must mean they are immature and really think those students are their “friends”. Take a look at your own Facebook and ask yourself how many people listed are really your friends. Maybe it is just a compilation of people you know, sort of know, may have known or never even met in your entire life. While I do not have students on my Facebook page, I do not begrudge teachers who do.
The word “inappropriate” flies around school buildings a lot. I would venture to bet it is one of the most verbalized school building words. Teachers and administrators say it to students and each other. It covers something as mundane as when a teacher leaves the copy machine without paper, as well as something as serious as a student cursing at a teacher. Things that are regular human interaction in everyday life get labeled as “inappropriate” with ease in a school.
While children need to be protected and teachers need to be adults, we have never found a way to do it without creating a climate of fear and repression in school buildings. Teachers literally find themselves walking on eggshells every minute of the day. What are the impacts of a repressed teacher on the quality of education children receive? Knowledge, wisdom, culture and learning are supposed to be natural and free, yet we are contorting our teaching force into plastic and inhumane “authority figures”.
These restrictions will get worse and worse as education reform continues its forward march. We do not want teachers. We want test prep trainers and authority figures that will babysit children 7 hours a day. We do not want teaching. We want barking out the correct bubble-in choice on the next decontextualized knowledge question. We want teachers to model this behavior of rigid discipline and fear for the next generation of low-wage workers.