Cutting off our nose to spite our face

NorthJersey.com just posted an article on how New Jersey school districts are creating very restrictive social media policies for their adult employees because of new legislative edicts. Here is the comment I just left there:

I wonder if the districts’ policies for employees also include no handwritten notes to students, no face-to-face discussions at church or at the mall or in the grocery store, no landline phone calls, etc. These districts already have policies prohibiting inappropriate communication with students. Why not just make sure those policies include electronic communications and be done with it rather than create special policies that demonize technology and highlight to kids how irrelevant we adults are? Why are we penalizing the 99.9% of teachers and students who will use these tools appropriately for the 0.1% of those who won’t? We don’t do this in other areas of discipline. We’re cutting off our noses to spite our faces…

We’re unknowledgeable, we’re afraid, and/or we need control. As a result, we’re discouraging adult educators from connecting with and forging relationships with youth. I think that’s dumb, particularly when the statistical prevalence of such incidents is so incredibly infinitesimal.

What do you think?

6 Responses to “Cutting off our nose to spite our face”

  1. I think that the more voluntary communication the better. If the student wants to ask their instructor a question on facebook: why not? Just make sure the parents know the communication is wholly professional.

    Also Mr.MCLEOD, I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind answering a question for me: Are you currently allowing guest blog posts?

  2. It’s distressing to read this, but certainly not surprising. I live in one of the towns mentioned and will email the superintendent who oddly was a tech coordinator before he became a superintendent. He came to see the learning and tech initiatives we had underway in a neighboring town back in 2009 and 2010.
    When I worked in public schools I contended with these fears by some admins and board members and was able to have some sanity prevail and have very supportive policies. But all of this is so tenuous. Each time the Board attorney spoke, I knew I was in for a battle. With our use of Moodle it would have been impossible to curtail conversation between a teacher and a student. This represented one way kids learned, as well as their presence on Twitter. How sad that so many leaders don’t get this.

    I especially appreciate your comment about hand written notes. These stances are so antiquated.

  3. The sad thing is that the law only requires that a policy be in place, not a ban on electronic communication. Most of these policies are a result of lazy interpretation. The goal should “keep it professional, folks” rather than “No!”.

  4. The issue here is that the people who come up with this absolute rubbish are not teachers. Teachers know the value of communication. I’m not the biggest proponent of Facebook communication, though I can see communication through a class Facebook page. These lawmakers/policymakers are cutting us off at our knees while requiring us to reach the stars. AND, they have the nerve to spearhead the blaming of teachers when anything goes wrong.

  5. Although I agree with the spirit of your position, Scott, I do not think personal social media channels are quite equivalent to meeting in the grocery store, the church, etc… The stickiness here I think comes from the relative privacy of the communication. We all know it’s not wise practice to be alone with a single student in a room with the door closed… much wiser to have the door open where others can see. I think the district is wanting the same sort of transparency with electronic communication. Sadly, as a quick tour of social media spaces show, when people act under the guise of privacy and/or anonymity, stupid stuff happens.

    Of course, teachers are supposed to be professionals and a flat out banning of such forms of communication does send the message that teachers are not to be trusted… or tempted. I think your conclusion is spot on… that we need to expect and demand professional behavior from all staff, regardless of the mode of communication… and swiftly dole out consequences for anything less.

  6. Very well said! When the district I worked in was passing similar restrictions (note my twitter bio which I have recently toned down to be less snarky) 4 years ago, I defied my principal and superintendent and spoke out against the policy at a school board meeting. It did no good other than put a target on my back, and give me the reputation of being “that crazy twitter lady.” Still, I have been able to use SM to build trust, forge relationships, and mold appropriate online behavior, by having school (as opposed to personal as our AUP states is prohibited) twitter and Instagram accounts.

    One time I alerted admin about some seriously inappropriate comments a student was making. There was no mechanism for the school to address this since our SM heads were in the sand! Next day the secret service showed up to interrogate the student! Regardless, the AUP provision survived a recent review and apparently is here to stay….however, all of our admin now have “school accounts” so there are ways around even the most restrictive policies!

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