Be A Responsible Social Teacher

I think teachers should blog.  I especially think that media teachers need to blog.  But that blogging should have a purpose.  Blogging is not for whining and complaining about your job, your students or your administration.  The purpose is to share good ideas and hopefully get some ideas too.  Blogging should help build a community of educators who help each other and support each other.

So if you are a teacher who wants to blog or have a social network site, then there are a few rules you should observe.

1.  Remember you are a teacher and an adult.  Your students might, heck probably will, find your blog/social site.  Don’t talk about (gossip) your students and if you do mention a situation involving a student don’t use their names.  It is somewhat OK if they are now grown former students (adults), but you should still guard their privacy – they trust you and it is unprofessional to use their names or make them identifiable.  It can be seen as libel and even get you fired for breech of confidentiality.

2.  Again you are an adult.  Don’t post photos of yourself doing things that your district or your children’s parents would find offensive or objectionable.  For younger teachers – you are not in college anymore.  If you still have wild photos posted online from college – take them down.

3.  Protect your own privacy.  Adults are not the only predators online.  Some students have done some nasty things to teachers.  Check all the settings on your blog/social site to make it hard or impossible for others to post anything without your  approval.  Don’t post personal info such as your address, phone number, etc.

4.  Keep your site focused on one thing.  I have several social sites and this blog.  I use them for different things, but almost all for journalism/media/teaching.  But I use this blog to organize my ideas for teaching.  I opened it up for the public so that other media teachers might see it, benefit from it, share back with me and create community.  I have a Facebook page – and my policy is that you must be an adult for me to add you to it.  I use it to keep up with former students.  They send me notes about their jobs, college careers, weddings, etc.  It is nice to know how great they are doing.  I filter everything they send me.  I have a myspace page – my current students can send me an add.  I don’t look for them, but many have added me.  I specifically let them know that I filter all comments, etc.  I also will delete any student that tries to add inappropriate content.  Kids mainly use it like adults would use email.  You MUST have a strict policy about keeping that contact open, professional, clean and let the kids know that you WILL contact their parents, school officials, police if you see abuse or illegal behavior.  You are their teacher 24/7 until they graduate.  You are legally bound to protect them, even from themselves.  Don’t forget that. Finally I twitter – but that is almost exclusively for professional contacts in media and education.   I would not follow anyone on twitter who is not an adult.  That would be creepy and too much like stalking.

5.  Always think before you type.  If a student asks you a question online, remember there is always a record of it.  Think like an adult.  Ask yourself if you are giving them the right answer – the legal answer – the ethical answer.  If you don’t know – say so.  Tell them who they should ask.  If you are typing a blog post, remember the ISP and the host servers will keep backups of that post for a long time.  Think before you post.  Keep your anger, angst and gossip on a leash.  If your blog is media or education related – keep it professional.  Your boss, co-workers and readers will appreciate it.

6.  Always treat your students like students.  You are their teacher, not their friend.  You can be their friend after they graduate, but until then – you are a professional educator, don’t forget it.  If a student needs help – remember your legal, professional and ethical responsibilities.  You are legally required to report certain behaviors like abuse or illegal activity.  You are ethically required to help them find the right contacts with the school nurse, counselor or administrator if they have serious problems.  And always remember that they have parents who you may need to make contact with in certain situations.  If you are an inexperienced teacher, find a mentor who you trust to help guide you when dealing with student situations you feel unsure about.  Finally, always keep the student’s best interest in mind.  That may mean that you could have to take their problem to an administrator, parent or the police.  Some times you do not have a choice – it is the law.  If you have a social site that students find or know about – make sure they always know you are still their teacher, even when the school day is over.  Even in the summer.  Being a teacher is like being a cop, a doctor or a priest – you are never really off duty.

7.  Be respectful of your colleagues.  Just like students, respect their privacy.  Don’t use their names in your blog without their permission.  Use your blog for positive, collaborative things.  I have found that the more I have posted things for myself and others, the more I have found new avenues of learning for myself.

8.  Don’t steal.  Don’t post other’s content.  It’s just wrong.  Linking to other’s sites is OK and even encouraged.

9.  Do share.  Post all kinds of stuff that you have created.  Don’t be afraid that it isn’t good enough.  You never know who will see it, like it and be a better teacher because of you.  I’ve found so much good stuff on the net and I appreciate every one of the many teachers who posted their stuff for others to find.

10.  Have a little fun.  But don’t go crazy.

Yes, I know that sounds like a lot of rules, but remember they are there to protect you, your students and your school.  And it is important to protect all three because you can’t be a teacher without any one of those three things.  Blog and be social, but be responsible too!