Teachers on social media

Illustrations by Rylie Foster

Social media is one of the easiest ways to communicate and share news, opinions and photos. Over the last decade the world has become extremely technology-based and thus, highly interconnected.

Teachers are just as human as students are, so teachers using social media shouldn’t come as a shock.

“It’s a personal decision, for teachers and students, whether to have social media and how public or private their social media is,” English teacher Amanda McCleary said. She uses Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.

However, it’s not exactly socially acceptable for teachers (and other professional adults) to use social media the way students do.

“Social media can be tricky because it allows teachers to help students make connections outside of the classroom. Mixing our personal lives with our professional lives online isn’t a good idea and can actually violate of our code of ethics,” History teacher Rebecca Whitney said. “Ultimately, it’s all about how it is used.” Whitney does not follow students or allow students to follow her on social media until after graduation.

The Internet is known to make the world a smaller place, which can also lead to lives crossing each other; therefore, the issue of the teacher-student social media relationship becomes blurry.

“I don’t know why it would be necessary to follow a student unless it is a part of a curriculum. Sometimes teachers are coaches and follow students to make sure their players are making good decisions,” Principal, Dr. Kathy McFarland, said.

Though there is no specific statement on social media, the OLSD Teacher handbook states, “The district supports access to appropriate resources by staff, volunteers and students (‘users’) for educational purposes and other legitimate district business based upon the user’s legitimate needs. Due to the rapid change in technology, a user’s access and/or these practices are subjects to change at any time.”

Teachers and other district employees are required to report anything inappropriate they see on social media (drinking, smoking, etc.).

“We are adults, and it’s not our place to follow the social lives of our teenage students on social media. It invites us to be aware of or involved in things that isn’t our business. I value getting to know my students and creating strong bonds with them, but following them on social media is a line that I wouldn’t be

willing to cross,” Whitney said.

Public accounts also make it easier for lines to be crossed, in any situation. “Yes [teachers and students can follow each other], if the students want them to or if the students have public settings. Students and teachers can block each other if they want to ensure privacy,” McCleary said.

Social media can carry both positive and negative connotations for any user. Over the last five years, it is one of the fastest ways of communication and sharing. Since 2010, the total number of social media users has increased over 50 percent, according to statista.com.

“I believe most people are positive about teacher and student use of social media now than they were five years ago. Many people used to be wary of privacy issues, but as more teachers and students use social media to extend learning, it is a more acceptable form of interaction,” said McCleary.

Though this is true, social media can make it easier to bring up past events easier than ever.

“A question we have to ask during interviews for new teachers is, ‘Is there anything on social media we need to be aware of (referencing pictures and inappropriate posts)? If it were a photo from a college party however many years ago, and we are told, it most likely will not affect their job,” Dr. McFarland said. “If it is withheld and later comes up, they could risk being dismissed from the job.”


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