When I was 11, I met my grade 5 teacher at the grocery store. It was a very exciting moment. I felt 3 things: 1) I felt lucky and excited to see her; she was a favourite of mine and I struggled to be a favourite of hers. 2) Very awkward—without our familiar context, I didn’t know how to act or what to say to her. 3) Unsettling—I had to deal with the fact that my teacher was a real person who didn’t live at the school or cease to exist when I left. This might not be universal. If you live in a small town you might see your teacher outside of school so much that it is no longer exciting or surprising. If you live in too large a city, you might never see your teacher in “real” life. However, for some of us, particularly those of us who idealized our teachers (I certainly was one), seeing them as real people can be uncomfortable—it can challenge our perfect notion of them among other things.
With teacher’s increasing use of technology, my students are bumping into me more and more in the real world—how should we handle it?
At the faculty I was advised, if we were ever going to do something embarrassing or “inappropriate” for a professional, then we should make sure we do it hundreds of kilometres away from where we work(we all were, it wasn’t personal). Well, that isn’t possible with social media; there is no hundreds of kilometres away.
And what if it isn’t embarrassing or inappropriate? What if it is simply adult? Back a few years, under memo s33 “how do deal with controversial issues in the classroom,” we had a concise guide of how to deal with our personal opinions—hide them!. With the OCT’s recent(ish) discussion on using social media and other sources we have a directive to be professional and conservative with what we share. But how far should we take that?
What ever flaws S33 had in what it regarded as controversial, and what ever opinion you have about the recent OCT comments, they have at their base an awareness of a teacher’s influence on their students. They have an awareness of what sharing a teacher’s opinion might do to student autonomy. If we share our opinion, students might not be able to critically assess it; they might be overly influenced by it—such is the supposed power of our position. Much like the reading of Miranda rights in the States, checks must be used to insure we don’t suppress autonomy by our awesome presence!
However with students being able to access my real life–with my presence continuing in their lives outside of the classroom thanks to SM, what do we do? I have shied away from taking about my religious beliefs, political beliefs, and say, drinking habits, in the classroom for the reasons above – need I exercise the same caution on social media?
In my real life, I want to stand up and be counted for my political and religious beliefs. I want to share these beliefs because these beliefs make up the real me–it is by my opinions and thoughts that I am knowable. I want to share, promote, advocate but I haven’t as yet (much) because I am mindful of my students (once the invisible audience, now 22/24 follow me on twitter). Must I be? I have seen people like @mbcampbell360 talk at length in twitter about their atheism, political support of the Green party, and liberal use of profanity—but he teachers adults—can I join him?
Do I suffer from a lack of integrity for this hidden side of me like the Zuckerbergs suggest? Am I being overly cautious? Like Pinocchio I am asking, “Can I ever be a real boy?” and share my opinions more freely on twitter? Where would you draw the line?