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Teaching in the Internet Age: Teachers Beware! Somebody's Watching.

Updated on August 9, 2016
Dean Traylor profile image

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher. He is a former journalist who has worked on various community and college publications.

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Social Media can make or break a teacher's reputation. Here are some tips to avoid embarrassing or legal situations

It was supposed to be a joke, an Ohio middle school teacher claimed. She took -- and posted -- a controversial photo onto her personal Facebook page. However, the “joke” has placed her on unpaid administrative leave by her school district.

The photo in question was of her students seated at their desk with duct tape placed on their mouths. In addition, it had a caption stating, “Finally found a way to get them to be quiet!!!”

While it may sound like a gag -- and was done with students who willingly particpated in its creation -- the humor was lost among members of the Akron Board of Education. As a result, she is (at the time of this writing) expected to have her case sent before the school board. She may lose her job over an Internet photo.

This incident illustrates a point often overlooked by many educators; appearance and action in public can have profound effects on their careers. Teachers, more than any group that serves the public are placed under a microscope. Their appearance, mannerism, comments, and actions – whether it’s in the classroom or on social media sites – are not going unnoticed. Even a teacher’s past actions can fall under close scrutiny by concerned parents, community leaders and school board members.

What are teachers and other educators to do under increased scrutiny? Simply put, they must avoid embarrassing situations that can jeopardize their careers as well as their standing in the community. And, they have to realize that the public will hold them to a high ethical and moral code.

Also, they need to realize that in the 21st century, it’s not just the students in the classroom who are watching them; it’s the rest of the world, thanks to technology.

Here are some advice for teachers -- or just about anyone working at a school. These are simple rules, but breaking them can cause a lot of headaches.

Even a classroom's condition can end up on the Internet.
Even a classroom's condition can end up on the Internet. | Source

Use Common Sense in the Classroom

The "new normal" of education is that teachers do not teach in isolation anymore. Almost any infraction can be taped by students with hidden cameras or cell-phones. Also, a teacher’s words or comments can be posted onto the Internet for everyone to see and hear. Even a teacher’s past can be found by Googling it.

Now, more than ever, teachers must use some common sense: watch what they say, keep a lid on their anger, and always be professional. Even without the presence of a recording device, reports of their actions in the classroom can spread by word of mouth. In many cases, teachers’ reputations will be slightly tarnished, meaning future students may try to avoid taking their classes or show little disregard for them. In severe cases, administrators may take punitive actions, such as a write-up or termination of the educator's teaching contract. In a worst case scenario, law enforcement may be called in to investigate; especially if the action had abused a student, physically or sexually.

Thus, it's always advisable teachers must be professional in the classroom. This includes restraint of verbal and physical actions, maintenance of composure, and ideal manners.

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Keep your Opinions to Yourself

Too many teachers get in trouble for their Facebook comments. They make the mistake of believing that their personal page is a place to vent frustrations they have for students or colleagues. Often, they don’t realize that the comments can easily be leaked to the public; especially if certain built-in protocols within the social media are not followed (such as sharing the comment publicly).

Facebook is not alone. Personal blogs or webpages have landed numerous teachers in hot water. Most notably, it centered on comments they made about the teachers, administrators, and students at their school.

Also, some teachers have made the mistake of placing their opinions on the reader comments of an online community newspaper. Today, many of these forums give the readers a chance to post their comments via Twitter, Yahoo account, or Facebook. As a result, the comment goes way beyond its intended audience.

One example happened In 2010. A teacher lost her job after writing several negative remarks about students in general. These remarks found their way onto a local online newspaper (it originated on her personal blog). While she received some recognition (she was given “thumbs-up” by some of her readers), she didn’t raised the ire of parents, students, and administrators at her school. It wasn’t long before somebody complained and the teacher’s contract was not renewed for the coming year.

Go to the popular site and type in “teacher meltdown”. There will be countless postings of teachers hitting students, destroying cell-phones, or screaming at children

Act Professionally in the Front of the Camera, err, Classroom

Teacher meltdowns are inevitable. There are simply days when a lesson is not going in the right direction, or the students are extremely rambunctious. The flustered educators may scream, yell, or simply lose their cool. It happens to the best, from time to time.

Still, those meltdowns can have dire effects on teachers, especially in the age of You Tube and cell-phone cameras.

Go to the popular site and type in “teacher meltdown”. There will be countless postings of teachers hitting students, destroying cell-phones, or screaming at children. In one memorable post, a teacher literally destroyed his desk and threw several chairs against the wall. The situation got so bad that students fled the classroom.

Through it all, a student recorded the event and placed it on You Tube for the entire world to see. The public saw – even if the teacher was a model of exemplary behavior most of the time – was somebody out of control and unfit to teach children.

Teacher Destroys Classroom

Think Before You “Act”

The Internet has a way of exposing one’s past. Take the story of a teacher in southern California whose past “job” was exposed.

Students of the Oxnard science teacher discovered that she was once an adult film actress. The acting career had been brief and had taken place a decade earlier when she was a struggling college student trying to find a way to make ends meet.

Word quickly spread until it reached the school board. She was promptly removed from the classroom. Although her discretion were not illegal, she broke an unwritten law pertaining to a community's concept of morality.

The school board voted to terminated her employment.

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Technology can be a wonderful thing in the classroom. It heightens a lesson plan or accommodates students with learning difficulties. It can also be an hindrance if used incorrectly (especially in the hands of a student). If there is one important lesson to be learned from the examples mentioned, it is that teachers must be careful. It can be the teachers’ friends or their enemies.

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© 2013 Dean Traylor

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    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      Wow, the example you opened with was of a teacher who use terrible judgement. What the heck was she thinking? Any why wasn't she doing something productive in her classroom? She deserved to be fired, I am sorry to say. As for the video, I am speechless. That man should have been removed in handcuffs. As a teacher, we often want to scream and shout and shake students up, but in reality, that is just not effective or professional. I am going to have to google other Youtube videos now to see what other nonsense my so called collegues are up to. I hate when a few bad apples spoil it for the rest of us... Great discussion here, and important for these times. We must think before we post, as everything can go public, no matter how many privacy settings we think we have put in place. Voted up!

    • ComfortB profile image

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      There really is no excuse for the behaviors of the female teacher with the joke gone bad. None whatsoever.

      The video, I really don't know what to say about that other than the fact that he was obviously out of it. I mean, I've worked at an alternative school and I've seen teachers get so close to losing it when students make fun of the teachers. It's a thin line.

      Great hub. Voted up and useful. Every teacher should read.

    • profile image

      Brenda Durham 4 years ago

      Both teachers were very unprofessional. I dunno how old she is, but the female teacher seems very immature herself and lacking in common sense, ergo....not very good teacher material at all.

      The second video.....I dunno what preceded the part of the video that's shown. Why was the teacher telling the kids to shut up? Why didn't he call security or send the troublemakers (if they were who started it) to the Principal's office?

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Voted up and interesting. You are right teachers in this world of modern technology have it so much tougher. Even though what you post on FB may be part of your personal life when you're a teacher there can be a much too thing line between what is personal and professional and you always have to be aware of what you do. Passing this on.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      deantraylor,

      This is a very useful hub and it is so true that a teacher has to be very careful about his actions in class. I teach EFL at a private school in Thailand and I know that many students bring cameras into the classroom. At times, I have almost blown up like the teacher in the video, but have caught myself. When you have an unruly class in which many students make noise and don't pay attention, it is really easy to get angry. It is also important here to be careful what you tell your students about your past. When I first got here, I told some parents and students that I was in the U.S. Navy when I was younger. This turned out to be a "no-no", and I was warned by my supervisor never to mention my Navy past again. It seems that the Navy got a bad reputation here in Thailand in the 60s and 70s when many servicemen from Vietnam came for R&R and others were stationed here. Voted up and sharing with followers and on Facebook. Also Pinning.

    • Levertis Steele profile image

      Levertis Steele 4 years ago from Southern Clime

      Life, overall, is becoming more and more complicated. The problems in the schools are in the communities as well. An educator can make a statement that is not really wrong, but offends someone, and finds truckloads of trouble. Your mention of your stint in the Navy is a good example of this.

      Educators need to exercise the utmost care when on the Internet or on the job. A downside is that many good teachers are becoming overwhelmed with the stress of growing problems and leaving the classroom for other professions.

      One teacher said that she was reprimanded for locking her classroom door with only one student inside. She explained to her supervisor that she was losing teaching time because of unnecessary disturbances. Yet, the teacher was asked not to do it again. After several school shootings, locking doors became part of their school safety plan. That same teacher forgot to lock her door once because of the new practice and was reprimanded again. Even though each incident was necessary in their own times, such can contribute to teacher burnout. Whose fault is it? No one here is at fault. Sometimes life serves us lemons. The old toughies make lemonade, but some take a hike. Many schools are presently struggling to keep excellent, highly qualified teachers. This is becoming a problem in many areas.

      Thanks for sharing a hub that I hope many educators and parents will read.

    • collegedad profile image

      collegedad 4 years ago from The Upper Peninsula

      The classroom has changed a lot since I was a kid. Back then teachers were respected and parents were feared. By feared I mean that you hoped that your parents were never called, because they would back the teacher and deal out unthinkable punishments. By today's standards a walk to the woodshed is "unthinkable."

      As far as social etiquette and the teaching profession, maybe we should step back to the 1800's. Take a look.

      Rules for Teachers in the Late 1800s

      1. Teachers each day will fill lamps and clean chimneys.

      2. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day’s session.

      3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils.

      4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly

      5. After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.

      6. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.

      7. Every teacher should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society

      8. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barbershop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and honesty

      9. The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.

      Retrieved from: http://blog.ivman.com/teachers-rules/

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