Okay, so this has been on my mind for a while. I am genuinely curious, and would LOVE responses on this topic, because I really want to understand all sides of this, and really need to work to figure out where I draw the line. I also want to apologize if this seems rambly or not as succinct as it could, or should be. This is basically a stream of consciousness, think-aloud about this topic, inspired by something I observed on facebook tonight, as well as other instances around social media.
As teachers, we all know (or should!) all about FERPA. We all know that our students, and their families, have legal rights to expect that their privacy, and the privacy of their child, is respected. So, where does that leave us as teachers on social media?
I've seen conversations of late where "anonymous" teacher questions were posted (teachers submit their question, another teacher posts it on her social media, and other teachers respond), but then the teacher who submitted the question has made public acknowledgement that it was her question, along with sharing details about the situation. Is that a violation of FERPA? To me, it would be. Do I know who that child is? No. Would other teachers who work in that building? Maybe. Would other parents from that building? Maybe. And that parent? Oh, that parent, seeing that conversation online, would certainly know to whom it was referring. That child and family have, in my mind, just had their FERPA rights violated. Just because we leave off names, it does not mean we aren't breaking FERPA.
I've read blog posts from teachers I think do a fabulous job, where they write about their students who struggle with behavior. I know we need a place and a way to vent. I know we should be able to write and blog about our lives and our experiences in the classroom. However, if you are a well-known (or even a totally unknown) teacher blogger, and a parent visits your website, and sees you going on about how you were doing such great things in your classroom, but then this nameless child went off, throwing things, etc, how is that parent going to feel knowing that it was his or her child? How do other parents feel when they read these summaries of life in your classroom? Is it a reality of teaching? Yes. Children aren't perfect. Some kiddos are struggling emotionally and academically, and don't have the skills or ability to manage their frustrations. Is it overwhelming for us as teachers? Yes. Do we have the right to publicly air our issues in social media? I don't think so. We CAN address things by asking questions, such as "what have you done when...", without giving details about the situation of a specific child in your classroom...if it is a question that can be generalized across many children, many experiences, without a specific story or example attached, I'm cool with that. I'm not cool with "here's this specific story that has just happened to me, what would you do?"
I'm not saying we need to paint a picture of teaching as sunshine, rainbows and unicorns. That's not useful for anyone. I am saying that we, as teachers, and as participants in social media, really need to remember that everything we put out there is visible to someone else...and that "someone else" may be one of our parents, grandparents, friend of a family, someone who loves that child, someone who may be embarrassed to see their challenges and frustrations put out in public for all to see. We don't need to agree with all parents, and we certainly need to be able to seek help when we need it, we just need to be thoughtful when we post, and remember, as frustrated as we can get, it is never okay to publicize private conversations.
As I said, this is really just my reflection on what I am seeing happening in social media...any thoughts and ideas would be appreciated!