The Little House on the Internet
Teachers have always been held accountable for maintaining and modeling an exemplary standard of conduct in the community; this is something that has been a constant for as long as there have been teachers. Nothing new here. In fact it’s not hard for me to conjure up images of the small, one-room school houses dotting the landscape and visualize the Ingalls children dashing across my TV screen from their little house to their little school.
Even now, many educators live and work in the same community; I do. I move about town engaged in the many mundane tasks of the modern husband and father mindful of the fact that my students and families are out there. I go to the rink and soccer pitch to watch my kids play, aware that becoming the ‘angry parent’ is just not an option for me. I knew this when I entered the profession, serving as a role model was one of the reasons I chose this profession.
This is why the recent release of the Ontario College of Teachers advisory on the use of social networks is not a big issue for me, personally. My life online is pretty much a reflection of my life offline. Alec Couros (@courosa) has helped me consolidate my thinking and learning a great deal in this area. The life we lead is the life we lead, in person and online, and we should ‘own’ both. Scary though that may be, it is the reality of our connected world.
However, this is an issue for me professionally. As a school administrator, people will look to me to guide and support staff and students through this new reality. I’m responsible for communicating and monitoring the legal requirements, policies and procedures of my district.
Here’s the thing, though, nothing has really changed. We live in a global village, but it is still a village. The pathways and lanes that snaked through and between small communities 100 years ago still exist, as cables, wires and satellite dishes. We are still held to a high standard of conduct, we are still responsible for what we say, and how we say it and we still should feel free to be who we are, in person and online.
The great strength of our profession is our diversity and creativity. Effective teachers are also interesting people who lead real lives. We read, we write, we are artists, athletes, musicians, carpenters, some of us even tweet. When students see us in these roles, when we share our talents in the classroom, everyone benefits.
Social media, like it or not, is a vehicle for us to connect around our interests and talents and making these visible, appropriately, is not a bad thing. It might actually help build greater trust in public education amongst parents and other stakeholders.