Teachers: Role Model or Normal Human?

A few years ago, I sat through a “welcome to our schools” training for a district where I was recently hired.   We were instructed that as teachers for said district, we were to be above reproach.  We were to have clean Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.  We were not to be seen drinking, smoking, or cursing.  If we went to happy hour, which was highly discouraged, we were to go to another town so as not to be recognized and we were to never, ever were out “Named district fun Friday” shirts (which were required and we had to pay for ourselves) into any bar and if in a restaurant, we were to sit no where near the bar and only drink was was clearly a non-alcoholic beverage.  Needless to say, I was not an employee there for very long.  Now, mind you, I am not a drinker, smoker (I plead the fifth on the cursing) nor do I go out much, at the time, I had a 2 and 3 year old, I had no social life, but to be told that I would sully the reputation of the school if I was seen drinking a beer, on my own time, was too much.  This week we were asked to view several videos and I decided to review the video that discussed teacher’s social media pages.  In this story, an elementary school teacher in the San Antonio was under fire for her social media account, Pinterest.  On her personal account, she posted several e-cards (here is one e-card) which parents who, while doing a web search, found.   Parents were concerned and the school was investigating the report.  So, where does this leave the teacher?

Jim Rinck, former board member for the Grand Rapids Public Schools questions,  “Where does privacy start and stop these days? Better yet, do we have any left? On the other hand, if a teacher is a swinger on the weekends, does that affect how he or she teachers my kids during the week?” Dave Murray, MLive. In this day and age when every phone has a camera and access to the internet, how fair is it to hold teachers to a higher standard.  Clearly, I am not a supporter of this notion.   I felt the e-cards that the teacher posted were funny.   Do I really think that this teacher was serious in her posts, no.   Do I think that she had a rough day, week, year and rather than take it out on her class, she let off steam on a social media board to have a few friends laugh with her, yes. But, I am a teacher.    So I asked my husband, who (smart man) agreed with me.   But I really pressed him, wanting his honest opinion, not the one that I wanted to hear.  And he stated that he always knew that he wanted to marry a teacher or a nurse. When I asked him to clarify, he said that he wanted someone who could take care of his children or teach them, things that he was not as skilled at.   He looked at me and said, “While I am a smart guy, I am not a teacher, you see things in a way that I do not.   You help our kids see things in a way that helps them.   Too many people in this world forget that.  They assume they can do you job.  No one assumes they can do mine.”  Playing devil’s advocate, I asked him if this teacher and teachers in general should have only private pages and not ones that are easily accessible.  He immediately said, no.   Teachers are humans, not super humans.   If you want teachers to be above reproach, that status comes with respect and until the world is ready to give it, they are the same as you and me.

While I agree with much of what my husband stated, I also believe that it not reality.   I have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat (this one is for my 7 year old and her grandma).   I have seperate school and personal accounts.   I am mindful of what I post on each. Personal accounts, are just that, personal and I monitor who sees me.   But, this video segment and the current political atmosphere clearly worry me.   I like these rules posted here as a guideline, not an end all be all.  I am not saying that teachers need to be swayed from posting, they need to be aware of reality. I have taken down replies that I have posted simply because I am concerned that a “friend” with an opposing viewpoint will report me to the conservative people who employ me.  For example, Kathy Griffin’s recent debacle.   I personally do not find her funny and I did not like what she did.   Do I think that she is any more complicit that when Ted Nugent called for Obama to be killed or when memes about wanting to “hang” with president Obama (there was a noose in the picture) circulated? No.  However, there is a political climate and a social morality climate in the US right now that has my “Danger Will Robinson, Danger” light on.  We live in a world where someone else is always to blame, whether it be the politician from the other party or a meme that somehow comes to reflect the entire thought process of an individual and not just where they are at this moment….Social media, fair or not, comes with responsibilities. As a teacher, like it or not, I am subjected to them.   Others should be as well.    This is a 21st century skill that needs to be taught, just as appropriate commenting.  Take a look at Mrs. Yollis‘s blog spot if you have not already (I book marked this one and will adapt and use this year!).  I do not think that we will can answer the question of above reproach online until there is a standard of “reproach”…this needs to be taught, it is not innate, not yet.

 

                   Picture provided by                                         StewieTechThoughts

 

 

8 thoughts on “Teachers: Role Model or Normal Human?

  1. This is a conversation that I have pretty often with my friends who are not teachers. For example, we just went on a tubing trip the other weekend. While my friends could carry on and talk about ridiculous stories, indulge in a beverage, and relax, I found myself hesitant because I never know who is around. Is it a parent who knows me and I don’t know them, is it a younger student who recognizes me but I’m not aware? Now I’ve made sure my life doesn’t revolve around being concerned about this, but it is in the back of my mind. Teachers seem to be held to a different standard. When you started talking about all the current debacles, it immediately made me think of our recent election (I know, I went there). Both candidates were under fire for their actions or supposed actions but they were still in the running to be the leaders of the United States. In turn, I have to be fearful of posting a sangria recipe to my Pinterest page because maybe a student or parent may see it? I brought this up regarding a different topic for this unit, but it’s all about balance and equality. As teachers we have important jobs to mold the lives of young children and be positive role models for them, especially if they don’t have them at home but we are still human, like everyone else.

    Thanks for your thoughts,
    Ally Beamesderfer

    • Ally,
      I totally get it. When I got married (a million years ago, when Facebook required an invitation) I wanted to post this super cute picture of me and my hubby sharing a drink. I didn’t. I actually worked with a teacher who was fired for being in a newspaper picture and holding a beer (now, I know that that was another reason, this was just the straw..but she was unidentified and on her own time, but the district said she was “promoting drinking”. I do see more understanding happening though in our country, that social media is not a place to say what you want and there be no consequences…it is a slippery slope.

      Thanks for the response.

      Meghan

  2. Hi Megan,

    Teachers are under the microscope more than other professionals. This is because we work with the children of the communities we teach in, and we are supposed to be super professional at all times. I was even told in college not to have a facebook if you are in education and that if you do, you have to watch every little thing you post. I have heard of comments and posts coming back to haunt people at their jobs. It is a real thing and a valid concern.

    • Hi Christine,
      I agree. It feel it is a double edged sword. I wish there was an easier answer. Although, I would like to ask that mom to show me her page…

  3. Hi Meghan,

    Before getting specific, I wanted to make a small comment on my personal role in this discussion. I work for an international Christian school system and, as with any religious system, it has those who are extremely liberal, those who are extremely conservative (religiously speaking), and everything in between. So I have been immersed in a world in which the microscope is very large and very, very strict. I have been fascinated to see how many of the requirements I deal with in my religious setting are identical to the issues that come up in the public school setting. This is not something I expected.

    I agree with much of what you and your husband have to offer. On the one hand, it is difficult to ask teachers (who are human) to be the perfect role models at all times. On the other hand, most parents, just like your husband, look to us to offer something more than they can.

    I know that as I have dealt with the unique challenges my boys have, I have been extremely reliant on finding teachers who have a borderline-unnatural ability to be peaceful and positive while still being transformational and positive. It is an extremely tall order – even unfair. But it is the reality. I need that level of “perfection” if my boys are to be successful. I have often thought about the weight of my profession, if it is viewed through a “big picture” lens, as being one of the only professions that impact the entire future of every person I am asked to lead. What other profession impacts the very life of every client? Yet how often do teachers really see it that way? Is that “fair”? Probably not. But if a teacher did play a major role in a student heading down a bad path, it is understandable that the parents and the broader community are unhappy with that. Likewise, if a teacher, by being careful about the image they project, can help lead a child to a successful, healthy life path, isn’t that something honorable.

    In the end, I don’t judge teachers on either side of the issue. This is an extremely difficult and complex situation and much depends on the personality, belief system, and educational goals of a teacher. A teacher who does the job because it is a good source of income or a great job to have as a parent, they will have a different mindset about their role than someone who has entered education with the specific goal of transforming students and placing them in the best possible position for success, they will often see things a bit differently.

  4. Hi Meghan,
    I really enjoyed reading your post this week. What a hot topic in education and one that we (as educators) are facing each and every day. I personally do not have a Facebook page or Twitter account, but of course have MANY teacher friends who do and have had numerous conversations with them regarding what they post. The conversation always seems to circulate around the fact that we know that our district is keeping an eye on everyone’s Facebook page. Therefore, everyone is very careful about what they post. I personally believe that the “limitations” that we feel in regards to social media goes along with the job. I agree with you that the teacher who created the ecards was perhaps simply trying to express some personal frustration after a difficult day and of course not being serious. However, it seems that due to the very “public” aspect of our job, we must keep in mind that even jokes will be taken out of context. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us this week!
    -Erin

  5. Hi Meghan!

    Oh my goodness, I enjoyed reading your blog post so much!!! I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but your post covered so many of the “good” blog post/commenting guidelines provided to us at the start of this course. Your content is great – clear, specific examples, your own insights. You have great voice and style, leaving me engaged and wanting to read on (I laughed out loud at some of the comments you inserted such as, “So I asked my husband, who (smart man) agreed with me.” You added media, linked to content, and responded to those who commented on your blog. Exemplary work and awesome model! Great job!

    I love your husband’s answer about teachers being humans, not super-humans, and he also makes an excellent point about status and respect. The social media debate is a monster. There are so many positives of social media, especially when it comes to helping us grow professionally, but then there are also many potential downfalls – even when our school and personal accounts are separate.

    Unfortunately, I know I’m missing professional growth opportunities because I don’t participate in social media, but I am growing elsewhere (through graduate classes, conferences, etc.). I am paranoid about social media. I even worry when others take pictures and post them on Facebook. I don’t have a FB account, but my husband does, and I often worry if he gets tagged in a picture that somehow it will come back to haunt me. Most recently my mother-in-law took a picture of us on Father’s Day. I was wearing a bathing suit, very modest, but when I looked at the picture I noticed the angle from which it was taken revealed too much of my chest. I instantly asked her not to put it on Facebook and tag my husband in it (I think she cropped the picture and the posted it). I hate to be overly cautious but I am afraid of what could happen.

    I want to participate in social media for professional growth opportunities, but I’m just not there yet.

    Thanks for sharing! – Kate Rock

    • Kate,
      I totally understand. I agree that there are so many opportunities for social media and the fear that is there as well! It has taken a long time for me to be okay with it, but I still do not use names when I post and I rarely tag people. My husband will not touch Facebook. For me, it is a way to keep in touch with friends, especially since I live so far away from my friends. I have only 50 friends on FB and I am very private. My Twitter, and Instagram are for school only and SnapChat only has 3 friends, my kids snap my mom, sister and friend who moved to Europe. I think our first step (easier said than done) is to get over our fears and teach our kids how to use social media. You will get there, or you will not. You will find what works for you. Sorry for the late delay in responding, I was on vacation at the beach!

      Meghan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *