A Positive Handbook
When we started planning out our 1:1 program, I worked with another teacher to draft a one-page AUP. I knew from years of experience that anything longer would just enter the vague pile of “grown-up papers” to which middle school students paid no attention. Older students, even if they were more capable of reading the whole document, will scan a list of Thou Shalt Nots and mentally account for every legitimate exemption or comically unmentioned offense. If you’re not going to let me do X, Y or Z, and you don’t even mentioned whether or not I’m allowed to A, B, or C, then why should I pay any attention to your list?
This might just be rose-tinted glasses, but it was a good draft. Then we sent it to the lawyers, and it came back looking like every other AUP I’ve ever read.
We won something in that first draft, however unexpected. It gave us a set of statements that had the backing of teachers and admin, that set out our goals for the program and dreams for student use of the tools in positive and affirming terms. When I need to prepare something for parents, that’s the language I reach for. When I need to speak to students about any behavior problem, I reach for those statements along with our mission statement rather than the AUP. Students don’t need their nose showed in EXA-CTLY what they did wrong. They need to hear support and positive expectations from the adults in their community.
It’s that same hope that’s fueling my search for positive pro-social language regarding blogging and social media for our faculty handbook. I’ve been looking for other schools’ Social Media policy (if they have one), and what I’ve seen looks a lot like AUPs. There’s an exhaustive list of what sort of posting can get you in trouble. There’s some discussion of what kind of trouble you can get in.
I know how that affects teachers who aren’t yet involved with any PLN-style experience. They listen to the nerd encouraging them to use that stupid “what I had for breakfast” service, telling them to “waste” hours reading other blogs, and spend more hours writing. . . writing what exactly? “What do I have that’s worth writing about?”
Well, what they have, what we all have, is our classroom practice, and our constant on-going reflection. What we have is the universe of nuance and insight that spending a day in the classroom offers. What we have is the chance to lock in some of those crystal clear and confusing moments, before the rising tide of busy yanks them away again. What they have is the opportunity to define themselves and their teaching practice, to share the wisdom from a long and engaged career, or to establish their identity as a collaborative professional identity on a global stage.
Oh, but what does the faculty handbook say? To expect disciplinary action if you link to the school’s website from a personal blog.
I know why we have lawyers. I know why independent schools need huge handbooks full of every anticipated HR crisis. But to have JUST those things is to define avoiding a crisis as success. It’s building a school with an evacuation plan but without a mission or curriculum.
Any statement about our 1:1 program should encourage students. We’re providing you with these resources because we think that they’re the essential foundation for passionate and engaged living across all interests, hobbies, and disciplines.
We provide you these tools because we believe that if you use them hard, then you’ll become a better and happier version of yourself.
Even if you make mistakes, we’ll support you and work with you because we believe in the power and importance of those experiences.
Don’t our faculty deserve the same level of encouragement?