I’ve been having a problem with social media lately. Like most individuals in my age group, I have a facebook account. And like all good Curry grads, my settings are up so high that you can’t see anything about me unless you’re my friend. My students haven’t looked for me (to my knowledge) or tried to friend me, and I intend to keep it that way. My primary use for facebook is to post interesting articles that I’ve read, and to communicate with friends and family back in the States (for which it has been invaluable). However, I always find myself pausing whenever I want to post about work on facebook (and on this blog, for that matter).
Social media is an outlet for people to celebrate, publicize, and seek help for issues in their lives. My life is teaching, so naturally I want to post about my teaching, including both the ups and downs. But with recent incidences like an Ohio math teacher getting suspended for posting a picture of her kids with duct tape on their mouths and other stories I’ve heard of teachers getting fired over facebook posts, I’m loath to even post a comment seeking advice for how to get my kids to keep quiet and focus on a lesson! And unfortunately, this has got me feeling a bit confused as to what to do, but also very alone in my profession. Because unless I tell someone about my problem face-to-face (which implies that I can find a good confidant even though I’m an ocean away from all my Curry professors and friends), then I’d better keep my public, online mouth shut (so to speak).
And so this has all got me thinking: Where is the line between “productive sharing” and sharing too much?
What do I mean by productive sharing? In my Curry class on Contemporary Issues in Education, we read a book called Teaching 2030 that suggested that teachers could use technology to build their professional learning networks or guilds in an effort to become “teacherpreneurs”. What I imagined, then, was being able to ask my network everything from how to effectively teach conjunctions to how to get a group of energetic sixth graders to buckle down and pay attention for 50 minutes.
However, I don’t foresee that happening when any relatively negative comment I have (like the Ohio teacher’s ”Finally found a way to get them to be quiet!!!”) could be used against me on any public, online platforms. I could keep my comments all positive, like “how great it is that Johnny finally learned the difference between an adverb and an adjective” or that “I shared a heart-warming moment with my homeroom over cookies”. Unfortunately, all of that just seems so false.
The truth of the matter is that teaching is hard, and if you’re lucky, you’ll have a few heartwarming moments in your day to balance out or (if you’re lucky) erase the frustrating, mind-boggling, and tear-your-hair-out moments. It also feels so incredibly false to only talk about the good stuff, as if I would be perpetuating every Hollywood myth that teaching is like Dead Poets Society and Stand and Deliver. Parents (and administrators) should know that teaching their children isn’t always a treat. I believe that suggestion cheapens both my job and shortchanges the child.
I suppose in this sense, it’s a bit like parenting these days. People always tell you to have children because the good moments outweigh the bad. They never talk about what happens when your child ends up less than perfect. I’m thinking here of We Need to Talk About Kevin — an excellent book that I actually got to read for fun (gasp!) over the winter holiday — and of the woman who got lambasted by social networking sites after she compared her son to Adam Lanza, the Newtown, CT shooter, in her blog. After all, children are innocence incarnate, according to those wonderful Romantic poets William Blake and William Wordsworth, and it seems to be an idea that we’ve held on to since then. To imply otherwise makes one cynical (as I might be) or a monster (as the post-CT blogger was called). Perhaps I’m taking this a bit too far, but it would be interesting to compare the number of positive media portrayals of children against the negatives, and see how this affects the attitude of the generation of parents-to-be.
What, then, is the real problem? Is the problem that some people (and teachers in particular) don’t know where to draw the line when it comes to sharing about their workplace? Or is the problem something deeper: that we don’t want to deal with the negative aspects of children, especially in school?
What do you think?