Teachers and Social Media

Your either love, hate or fall somewhere in between when it comes to social media. In schools, it is an ever constant pain in the ass while at the same time presenting limitless potential; it is a devil and an angel. One thing is clear, that it cannot be ignored by schools any longer. Social media policies and popping up as separate entities to the standard ICT policies in an attempt to embrace and manage how schools interact with the social media landscape. Some schools are winning, some are losing and some are spinning their wheels making lots of smoke and noise, but going nowhere. Social media is hard; not for individuals but for schools. As an individual, you can ignore what you want and interact with it on your own terms. For a school it is far more complex. Schools have to both manage their social media carefully; they have to publish content that is in-line with a plethora of rules and policies (both internal and department) whilst creating policies intended manage the behaviours of teenagers.

Schools are social institutions; teachers and schools are held to different societal expectations and responsibilities than others because we interact with young people on a daily basis. Teachers are expected to maintain a “professional” public appearance at all times on social media. I’m not sure which side I fall onto in regards to this debate. On the one hand, teachers (like everyone else) have the right to a life outside of work. On the other hand, we have influence and are role models for young people in our charge. I really don’t know where I stand on this. I am a social media user. I have been for years. I just tend to live a very boring life, so this I don’t feel pressure to act one way or another; until this blog I have been a passive user of social media, especially outside of the small communities I am a member of, which are all pretty bland and geeky. My friends are typically people I actually know in the real world. I stay out of controversial debates, not because I am managing my profile, but because I don’t want to. I find the wars of words, when written, is not my cup of metaphorical tea.

Back on track, to me, the two arguments can actually be boiled down the same thing; are teachers public figures? Some say yes, others say no. We are not celebrities or politicians, but are known in the community due to the nature of our work. We are definitely not paid to be public figures, but we knew that when we got into the teaching game. In this day and age social media is part of our lives; it is not going to stop and is not going away. I think this issue is going to be debated endlessly, as both sides of the argument are equally valid. The only solution I see, is one where teachers are compensated and recognized for the incursion of their jobs into their daily lives; something will have to be given for something to be given up. It is about finding balance between our professional identities and our personal lives. I for one will keep using social media and keep working to help my school, my colleagues and my students become responsible users of it.

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