“We believe that we have a moral obligation to grade students fairly, that is, to give them what they deserve. We would prefer to give them all A’s. Moral judgements are not, therefore, statements of preference or taste.”
Strike, K.A. & Soltis, J.F. (2009). The Ethics of Teaching. New York, NY: Teachers College Press
He maha nga kaupapa kei roto i tēnei āhuatanga hai whakaarotanga.
There are many elements to consider in the situation.
I have chosen to look at the ethical dilemma of social networking. Our school is about 20 minutes from a main centre. We draw our students from two distinct communities. Firstly the urban community directly around the school and secondly the more rural community which covers a much larger area. Many teachers at the school live as part of the community and choose to have their children attend the school. Recently the school has decided to use Facebook as a way to keep in touch with the parent community. A Facebook page has been created and many parents, staff and community members follow the page. This has been received very positively.
The first dilemma is that some teachers are choosing to post comments to the page using their personal Facebook profiles. This then opens up the possibility for parents and students to locate them on Facebook. With one comment or post, teachers are opening themselves up to the possibility of sharing information with the community that they might not intend on sharing. This of course depends on the privacy options they choose, however as some of the staff are not tech savvy the question must be asked if they know how to change their privacy settings? Should staff comment on the school Facebook page using their personal Facebook profiles?
A second dilemma is that as some teachers live in the community and are friends with other community members they are of course friends on Facebook. Is it appropriate to be Facebook friends with parents?
The third dilemma, which has occurred recently, is when staff members who are also school parents comment about the school on Facebook. This occurred recently when a school trip was late in returning. A staff member who is also a parent posted a negative comment, which of course all her Facebook friends (including staff and other parents) could see. Should staff be commenting on Facebook about the school?
I myself do have a personal Facebook account but I am very careful what I post and who I ‘friend’. To me it is a way to keep in touch with my children and close friends. My husband has decided he does not want an online presence on Facebook or any other social media so I must always be careful to respect him in what I post as well. I am friends with some staff members from my school, however I am starting to rethink that choice. As teaching professionals we are held in high regard in relation to our behaviour. (Connecticut’s Teacher Education and Mentoring Program, 2012) Since qualifying over 10 years ago I have always been careful to conduct myself in public with this in mind. I live and work within a small rural community and have always felt it is important to conduct myself as a professional. An example of this is that I would go and have a meal and a glass of wine at our local, but I would not head down with friends for a party or drinking session! The code of ethics I apply to myself in the ‘real world’ are just as important (if not more important) in the online world. Once something is posted it cannot be un-posted. The graphic I found on the Teachers & Social Media website is a great place to start, and I think this needs to be shared with the wider staff at our school.
I am in no way saying that Social Media, or Facebook should be avoided. We just need to be careful and considerate of our professional responsibilities before we post. As the Education Council points out:
‘Social media can be an effective tool for engaging with learners and communicating with parents, whānau and communities. Teachers who model good social media use will grow learners who apply positive, respectful values in their interactions on social media platforms.’ (Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand, 2016).
As a school I think we need to develop some policy around this issue and I will be bringing this to the attention of our leadership team and BOT. I am new to the school this year but have not come across any existing policy around social media and communication so I think this should be made a priority. Then we will be able to discuss and answer the three questions at the start of my post:
- Should staff comment on the school Facebook page using their personal Facebook profiles?
- Is it appropriate to be Facebook friends with parents?
- Should staff be commenting on Facebook about the school?