Like it or not, teachers are highly visible members of the community. No matter where we go, there’s always a member of our school community there, be it a student, ex-student, parent or colleague.
Teachers in regional towns have felt the pressure of visibility for years. However with the widespread availability of cheap smart phones and the ease of posting to social media, now being ‘spotted’ somewhere can mean a digital trail of your movements is created.
Without your permission, written or pictorial posts about you can be uploaded quickly to the internet and there is very little that can be done to control that.
Yes, the main source of information about you on the internet is you and your friends/family. Photographs and posts by you and your friends need to be carefully thought through. You are considered a role model by society and posts that contradict this standing might not only endanger your current employment, but future roles as well.
By agreeing to undertake employment at a school, you’ve agreed to support the school’s ethos. If your employer is a religious organisation, your internet presence needs to be in line with that ethos as well.
Common problematic situations include:
•posting or commenting on an issue in a manner that contradicts the school’s ethos
•promoting an event or petition that contradicts the school’s position
•posting photos that break an expected dress code or show you breaking the law (eg, taking drugs, irresponsible driving)
•indicating that your private living situation or relationship contradicts the school’s ethos, and
•negatively commenting on or contradicting the educational style of your school, eg publically dissenting regarding the pedagogical style or strategic plan of the school.
Other situations might endanger your employment too, such as:
•Posting about your students/their parents, even if it is funny or nice (you are breaking confidentiality)
•commenting negatively about your workplace or colleagues posting on a sick day, and
•being ‘friends’ online with parents or students (including ex-students), even if they are family or long-term friends.
In short, you need to monitor your digital presence. Even if you never use social media, your friends/family and students do.
Google yourself and work out the source of information there. Have a conversation with your friends and family about the need to protect your career.
If you are unhappy with your digital presence, the best tactic is to ‘bury’ the bad information by creating a deluge of good information – create a blog, get on Twitter and Facebook and post positive education stories.
After a while, the negative images/posts will drop down the Google search result list.
The Union’s new Pedagogy in the Pub: Anti-Social Media course explores the legal issues facing teachers and support staff. To find a session near you, visit www.ieu.asn.au