In a shortsighted move, the Ontario College of Teachers has instructed its members to refrain from connecting with students through social networks.
Word went out in an advisory issued to the college’s 230,000 members this past week. The order is non-binding, but it will still be influential.
Ms. Sa also writes:
In addition to connecting with students on their own turf, and using Facebook as part of the educational process, teachers can also use Facebook to monitor situations that could develop into cyberbullying. And to get information on other potential problems outside the classroom.
First, I will write about the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT). The OCT is not a teachers' organization; it is a public organization that includes teachers as elected and appointed members. Teachers do hold 23 of the 37 elected positions. Of those 23 positions, 18 are elected by teachers; the other four are elected by principal/vice principals, supervisory officers, private school staff members, and those who work in faculties of education. The other 14 positions are appointed by the provincial government. People who complain that the OCT is union controlled must understand that unionized teachers have a bare majority of one on the OCT council.
Next, the role of the Ontario College of Teachers is to set the professional standards and practices of all teachers, and to investigate if a teacher may fail to meet those standards and practices. Teachers as professionals must meet the standards and practices 24 hours per day--not just the seven hours teachers are with students each school day. That means that teachers cannot go a restaurant with his/her secondary school students, and order a beer for him/herself. Secondary school teachers may not have sexual relationships with students who are at least 18 years old even though those particular students are legally adults. Thankfully, women-teachers are now allowed to go into saloons. They were not allowed in the 19th century. Within the classroom, teachers must use the best teaching practices using the resources that are available within their schools.
Rachel Sa writes that teachers and students should be able to communicate with their students using different social media instruments. I understand that new technological tools make it easier for students and teachers to communicate with each other outside school. That does not mean it is better. As a teacher, I do not give students my phone number, email, or make them my Facebook friend. Even though the students are adorable (sometimes), I do not have a personal relationship with them. I must maintain my professionalism with them all the time. With respect to technological tools, school boards provide teachers and students with programs such as Moodle that allow both to communicate with each other about curriculum content.
Outside school, I do not need to spy on my students through their Facebook sites. I do not need to go to ratemyteacher.com just to find out that I rate highly because I am a kool teacher, or rate poorly because I am a jerk who gave a student a failing grade on his/her report card.
Yes, students do sometimes bully each other outside of school. However, my job is not to solve students' problems, but to work with students at school by teaching them the curriculum, having them learn it, and to facilitate in issues that they may present to me or that I observe. When I mean facilitate, I mean that I do not solve the students' issues, but help them to solve their own problems. If I must discipline a student, it is not because he/she has bullied someone. It is because he/she has broken a school or classroom rule such as "no hitting" or "no teasing anyone." The issue of bullying can be dealt with during a period of discipline such as detention or loss of privileges. I may deal with the prevention of bullying through story-telling and having students role-play in the classroom. However, I do not spy on the students on Facebook; I do not follow them as they go home at the end of the school day. Teachers have a lot of work to prepare for the next day. Teachers have lives of their own outside of school.
I need to go have some cactus-juice. (Cue to 15:47.)