Sunday 1 February 2015
It seems as though this sort of post is becoming something that I simply have to keep writing because teachers, and teacher-types need to be constantly reminded that it is completely inappropriate for teachers and teacher-types to friend, follow, circle, etc. parents or guardians of the children you teach. And of course, the reverse is also inappropriate. In fact, teachers and teacher-types, your Code of Conduct document that you all signed at some point within the last few years, outlines how inappropriate it is to link up on Social Media with the parents or guardians of the kids you teach. And don’t even get me started on how inappropriate it is for teachers and teacher-types to friend, follow, circle, etc. the kids you teach. That, ladies and gentlemen, falls into the ‘grooming’ category, and you really don’t want to be accused of grooming children.
For those who are completely oblivious to the term ‘grooming’ when it is used in this context, it essentially means that you are cultivating children for the purpose of engaging in an inappropriate relationship of the sexual kind. Now do you understand, teacher and teacher-types, why you do not want to be accused of grooming? Now do you understand why you absolutely must not allow the children you teach to become friends with you via Social Media? Let alone the fact that you are their teacher not their friend. You’re not paid to be their friend. You’re paid to educate them. Simple.
According to the Code of Conduct handbook, clause 1.3, Maintaining Professional Boundaries With Students states as an example of violating the clause: ‘Correspondence of a personal nature including letters, email, phone, SMS text, and on social networking sites i.e. Facebook, Twitter etc. (not including class postcards or bereavement cards, etc).’ My advice: do not correspond with students on Social Media unless you’re asking for trouble. Your intentions might be good, but things can and do often get misconstrued online.
I have written a number of posts about this issue, and still there are teachers and teacher-types out there who don’t pay any f*cking attention to what I’ve written. Let me put it to you this way, in terms of the bureaucratic aspects of the Code of Conduct . . . when you find out which kids are in your class for the year, you are not permitted to accept their friend requests on Social Media. That, as any logical, sane, commonsensical person will understand, is potential career suicide. Let me put it to you this way, if you are a parent of a youngish child, and your youngish child has a Facebook account (despite the fact that they are too young to be engaging with people online in that Facebooky kinda way), how would you feel if your child befriended an adult (who should bloody well know better) online? Doesn’t matter who the adult is, but your kid is ‘friends’ with a forty-something year old online. Creepy, isn’t it?
It again leads me into the next part. If you’re online friends with me, and you’re online friends with some kid, f*cking unfriend me because I don’t want some kid I teach seeing what I comment on your photos or your posts or whatever the hell you put online that you want me to respond to. My online profile is not something that I want kids to see – not because I’m ashamed of anything that I post, but because generally the stuff that I post online is suitable for adults not kids. My blog posts are not things that I want kids reading, especially the murderous crime fiction that I write, or the posts where I write f*ck a lot. Every time you like something of mine on Facebook, or your re-share it, you’re allowing the kids you are online friends with to see what I post. Again I state, if you are friends with students or former students who have moved from the primary school you’re working at to high school or any other school around, you’d best be unfriending me before I offend you and get rid of you first. Think about it: there’s something creepy, something not right about a twenty or thirty or forty or fifty-something year old who is ‘friends’ with a teenager or lil kid.
There is an exception to this, of course, and that is if the teenagers or lil kids are your relatives. I would add that another exception would be if they are the kids of your friends, but I think that begins leading you down a slippery slope because you’ll justify their ‘friendship’ by ‘friending’ the parent. This is really only admissible (if you can call it that) in any sort of inquiry into your conduct, if you were friends with the parent or guardian prior to you being their child’s teacher. That lil out is basically for those of you who have known the parents or guardians for years, like since you were at school together, or if you grew up together. But remember, it is a very slippery slope that you travel if you head in this direction.
Clause 1.3.2 of the Code of Conduct handbook covers Professional Conduct And Social Networking Websites, and the sort of material you might post online. It asks you questions like: Would you be happy for that material to be accessed by students, young people, other staff and parents of the community within which you work?; What judgement could be made about your suitability to have responsibility for children and young people?; What misuse of the material could children or young people make? Think about the appropriateness of what you post, what you like on Facebook, what you tweet, what you share from Buzzfeed, what you are exposing others to online, and then think about what it says about you. Finally, think about whether or not you’d like your kids to be exposed to the stuff that you post or like. Think reeeeeaaaaaallllly hard about that.
Whilst it isn’t expressly noted in the Code of Conduct handbook, by extension, your principal should have covered the ‘online friending of parents or guardians of the kids you teach’. Of course, it is entirely possible that your principal did not cover this, but it is generally accepted by HR, staffing, principals, deputies, anyone in administration or central office or any position of authority over teachers and teacher-types that becoming online friends with parents or guardians of the kids you teach is just asking for trouble. What you post can be misconstrued. As a parent, do you want to see photos of what your kid’s teacher gets up to on the weekend? Or their near naked selfies? Or their drinken outings to various pubs and clubs whilst they’re on holidays in Phuket? It will lead to masses of trouble for you. You will get drawn into online disagreements and online bashings of other parents or teachers or kids. You will be expected, because you teach their kid, to give them a lil extra leeway when the kid clearly crosses the appropriate behaviour line at school.
Look, I’m not saying that every parent will have this in mind, but think about it. If you could get your kid a lil extra leg-up, wouldn’t you consider asking a favour of someone who could help out? My advice to you: do not become online friends with the parents or guardians of the kids you teach. If you choose to do this, then please, unfriend me before I offend you by unfriending you first. I do not want the parents or guardians of kids I teach seeing what I post because you comment on my post, or like it, or re-share it. Unfriend me before I unfriend you.
These posts that I write about this Social Media stuff and teachers comes from a couple of places. 1. A good many teachers and teacher-types have little or no idea about the true reach of Social Media, and the sort of sh!t you can get yourself into by posting online. You need to be educated about this because you just don’t understand. 2. Pure selfishness: I will not be put into a compromising position because you stupidly choose to put yourself in a compromising position by online friending parents, guardians, and kids you teach. I know the sort of stuff I tend to post. I’m aware of my audience for my blog posts. I know that I don’t necessarily want kids I teach to read my stories. I’m happy to teach creative writing skills, but my stories are not G or PG rated. My ranty opinion posts are, for the most part, unsuitable for kids. I’m well aware of the reach of Social Media. I’m open to learning something new about it every day. And I certainly want to protect myself in terms of who I allow to see what I write, what I post, what I photograph. Don’t screw that up for me.
And P.S. just because a kid you used to teach is now in high school, does not mean that the Code of Conduct information doesn’t apply. They’re still underage, you’re still open to being accused of grooming. They. Are. Kids. By all means, be friends with them once they’ve left school and they’re adults. Go for it. I have. But simply moving from primary school to high school does not exempt you from the wrath of the Department if you’re caught in any sort of online friendship or relationship. And yes, that includes Instagram, Kik, WhatsApp, Viber, Path, Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger, and any other Social Media platform.
Do you get it this time, teachers and teacher-types? Because I sure am getting tired of repeating this stuff to you when it should be commonsense, if not self-preservation on your part.