Tuesday, March 18, 2008

When And Where Am I NOT A Teacher?


Recent events have me wondering about the line between my public life and private life, my personal life and my professional life. They also have me thinking about a post over at Students 2.o by Sean the Bass Player back in February. Sean's post, Where Do We Draw The Line?, discusses whether teachers would want to have students joining their on-line networks. It's a good post with lots of interesting comments. When I first read it I thought about commenting, but I just couldn't articulate how I felt about the issue. Here are some of the events that made me look back at Sean's post.

Event #1: earlier in the month Al Upton closed his Al Upton and the miniLegends blog, as requested by the South Australia Department of Education and Children’s Services, due to concerns over his student blogging project.

Event #2: around the same time, but for very different reasons, Jabiz Raisdana agreed to resign from his school in Quatar due to objections raised over an art project he posted on his personal blog.

Lots to think about in those two situations, and many people have been blogging about them (see these posts at Remote Access and Cool Cat Teacher for a start as well as the above links to Al Upton and Jabiz Raisdana).

Event #3: then yesterday, in a totally different situation, Dean Shareski posted about a disagreement that he had with blogger Matthew Tabor. I had heard Dean tweet about the argument on Twitter and I had read the comments on Matthew's blog. In Dean's post he says "It’s not that I regret posting the item to twitter it’s calling him obnoxious that was wrong." He goes on to say "I’ve gotten so comfortable using Twitter that I’ve forgotten, it’s not private."

These events are mixing in my head; I'm thinking about:

  • - how to teach my students to interact with 21st century tools while keeping them safe

  • - how to let the students' parents and community see that they are safe

  • - how to maintain a personal blog that is public and still maintain my professionalism

  • - how it is possible, as Dean says, to become so comfortable with web 2.0 tools, such as Twitter that we forget that it is not private.

And lastly, I am wondering, is a teacher a teacher 24 hours a day?

Anyhow, back to Sean's post, Where Do We Draw The Line?, regarding whether teachers would want to have students joining their on-line networks. After what I've written about above, I guess it comes down to this; there is no hard and fast line.

Ceiling Light 1

It can be very rewarding interacting and corresponding with creative and thoughtful students, but for a teacher there is also an inherent risk. As a teacher I have to be concerned about my perceived conduct, especially when young people are involved. Am I a teacher 24 hours a day? No, but it is certainly not just during the hours when I'm at school or prepping. The line is blurry, it wiggles a bit, it is not hard and fast. We don't draw the line, others later retrace our steps and sketch in the line where they think it should be.

Images: Lines and Ceiling Light 1 by tanakawho (creative commons attribution licence)


  1. Unfortunately it seems that we are accountable 24 hours a day unlike some other professions. It also seems we are held to a higher standard than an average person even in our personal lives.

    Here in a small town I actually do not like to go too many places. Not only do I see too many other students, I also see their parents. I quite frankly do not want to discuss their children's progress on my holidays/personal time/in a doctor's office, etc. It is too tough to be "on" all the time.

    I would not want students to be part of my network. It is unfortunate, but is more unfortunate that down the road we could be called on when that blurry line gets redrawn.

    Great post!

  2. Thanks for commenting, Louise. I used to live and teach in a town of 4,000 and can relate to what you are saying. It was rare for me to go to a restaurant, video store, pharmacy, or grocery store and NOT have one of my students or their parents working there. This is not always a bad thing, but it does mean you are "on" most of the time.

  3. I got up on my soapbox today in the High School office talking about technology and the fact that we tend to blame the technology when something goes wrong. I think it was Steve Dembo the other day that mentioned it is not the technology but behavior that needs to be scrutinized. The technology bringing us 24/7 access to data/information of the personal/professional nature is just another example of how we react to that access or how the behavior of others or ourself is emphasized.
    Keep Learning and Sharing,

  4. Chris, I agree with you that it is the behaviour not the technology that is at issue. Unfortunately, a lot of folks are having difficulty adjusting to the technology. That's where our job as educators is to help our students and others understand how our behaviour on-line can affect us. Hopefully the more we get the message out, the less filtering we'll see and the fewer cell phone bans in schools.


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