Could I be in trouble here? I'm a communicator and a teacher in training, and I want to be hired to teach in a public school someday. But -- and this is paranoid thinking -- what if someone in a position to hire me takes a look at my posts and decides something I've written is inappropriate? Inappropriate for impressionable young people to read?
I've taken a class on education and the law, and one of the things we learned was that public school teachers do have first amendment rights to speak out on even controversial issues as individuals. Although teachers do have to be careful of their speech on the job, because they are government agents.
So why is a friend who is a teacher so afraid to have an online presence? Why did another teacher I know try to eliminate most of her online presence after administration suggested she do so? Why have teachers strongly suggested to me that I need to be careful? Why are teachers so hesitant to use new media to its fullest? Of course, you have to be wary of friending current students. Wait until they graduate. Then it's okay. Maybe.
Stories circulate. Psst! Did you hear about the superintendent who may lose his job, because of inappropriate Facebook comments?
Okay, I think I see a problem here. Rumors circulate, and people fail to check into the sources and details of those rumors. Some casual comments by a new Connecticut school superintendent seem to have offended some. True, you don't expect someone on that professional level to announce that on his first day on the job the schools were closed, he slept late and that if every day was like this, "it'll be the best job ever."
And after a Facebook comment of "SUPER? You're OKAAAYYYYYY!", you don't necessarily expect someone on that professional level to respond so casually: "Yes, but OKAAYYY-intendant doesn't fit on my business cards."
Casual, but not offensive in my opinion. And surely not enough to be the subject of a special board of education meeting.
The thing is ... and you have to parse the issues carefully ... the new superintendent quite unfortunately also made a casual online reference to a confidential personnel matter: "counseling an administrator to retire or face termination."
That's the kind of thing school boards are not only allowed but required to go into private session for. What was the guy thinking? Facebook? Can we say "error of judgment"?
So, for the teachers who are working the rumor mill, afraid they may lose their jobs if they type something inappropriate online: lighten up. You have first amendment rights. This guy did, too. But he seems to have crossed the line ... or come awfully close to it.
And for any future employers who may be reading what I'm typing right now: "Move along. There's nothing to see here." It's an old Jedi mind trick. "Move along."