The public conception of students and teachers not communicating on social media is that this is for the protection of students.

Image result for teacher-pupil relationship
Image One: Available at http://www.mevaseret.org/mmy/about/mmy-at-a-glance/mission

However the ethical implication on the teacher are often overlooked. Teachers are accountable for their personal opinions outside of a professional sphere, and have taken measures to avoid repercussions which infringe on their freedom of speech and social media promotion of their private lives simply due to their profession. Is this part and parcel of the career they have chosen to pursue? Or in fact is it ethically wrong – the expectations that teachers adhere to?

Video created by Myself using Powtoon.

Given the amount of caution in which teachers view social interaction with students online, Ike Smith (Director of Instructional Support Services for Watauga Country Schools) suggests that ‘teachers may not know if or how to interact with their students professionally online’ (Smith, 2016).

HOW CAN TEACHERS CONTINUE TO PROTECT THEIR PROFESSIONAL REPUTATION?

‘Teachers are required to uphold the reputation of the school, to maintain reasonable standards in their own behaviour, and to uphold public trust in their profession’ (Childnet, 2011). This raises ethical issues surrounding the freedom of speech because ‘reasonable’ is subjective to the party viewing any status updates or tweets from a teachers account. Below is a personal example.

mike-strother

Mr Strother, posted (now removed) comments surrounding Brexit and the refugee ‘crisis’. Comments, which although well justified and were his personal view, were attacked by former pupils criticizing his opinions saying that ‘someone in his position’ should not comment on social media around ‘sensitive’ topics.

Image Two: Mike Strother (Director of Admission at the Manchester Grammar School).

SHOULD TEACHERS BE ABLE TO POST THEIR VIEWS? SHOULD THEY BEFRIEND STUDENTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA?

Having addressed some of the problems with the full expression of individual views and how this infringes on ‘freedom of speech’. The next logical step is to look at whether students should socially interact with their teachers at all.

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Image Three: Self Produced by Alexander Welch using Piktochart, Statistics obtained from Childnet (pie chart) and Fleming (2014) (bar chart).

HOW TO PROTECT AGAINST ANY CONSEQUENCES?

A friend of mine has been studying German at university and was required to teach young students English and this is the reaction I got when asking her why she changed her name.orlaith

Image Four: Taken from my personal Facebook messenger

Below is the well-articulated summery from Jesse Fletcher, who provides a concise presentation of the strains teachers unethically suffer from when just ‘doing their job’. Please ignore the final, semi-cropped sentence.

jenny

Image Five: Fletcher (2016)

It is easy to see the reasons behind the caution of teacher-pupil interaction on social media however as Fletcher goes on to conclude in her post, ‘Education is already underpaid, under-respected, and under-served. It won’t take much to trigger a chain reaction to drive even more of the talented few out of the profession’ (Fletcher, 2016). After researching this topic, it is equally clear that teachers are subject to unethical social expectations which impact their online activity.

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References:

Smith, I. (2016) Responsible Teacher: Social Media Conduct Available at: http://www.educationworld.com/a_news/responsible-teacher-social-media-conduct-1830077693 

Roson, J. (2015) How One Stupid Tweet Blew up Justine Sacco’s Life Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.html?module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=Magazine&action=keypress&region=FixedLeft&pgtype=article&_r=3

Childnet International (2011) Social Networking: A Guide For Trainee Teachers and NQTs Available at: http://www.childnet.com/ufiles/Social-networking.pdf

Fleming, A. (2014) Social Media Boundaries: Should Teachers and Students be ‘Friends’? Available at: http://www.today.com/parents/social-media-boundaries-should-teachers-students-be-friends-1D80156546

Fletcher, J. (2016) Should Teachers Be Allowed To Contact Students Through Social Media? Available at: http://www.today.com/parents/social-media-boundaries-should-teachers-students-be-friends-1D80156546

E-Safety Support (2014) What Every Teacher Needs To Know About Social Media Available at: http://www.staidanscatholicacademy.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/What-every-teacher-needs-to-know-about-social-media.pdf

The Guardian Online (2014) Twitter Abuse: Easy On The Messenger Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/24/twitter-abuse-abusive-tweets-editorial?CMP=twt_gu 

Image One: Available at http://www.mevaseret.org/mmy/about/mmy-at-a-glance/mission

Image Two: Available at https://www.facebook.com/mike.strother.9

Image Three: Created Myself, Available at https://magic.piktochart.com/editor/piktochart/18486322#

Image Five: Available at https://www.quora.com/Should-teachers-be-allowed-to-contact-students-through-social-media

Video: Created Myself, Available at https://www.powtoon.com/online-presentation/cjQAzbIVT8B/?mode=movie#/ 

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