My push for a positive and encouraging social media policy, rather than one built out of fear and CYA language, continues to creep along. In every conversation someone mentions that any professional+personal writing from faculty or staff needs to be slathered in disclaimers, drawing a right, bold line between the writing of this individual who happens to work/teach at the school and the institution itself.
Obviously, right? That’s why I have a space on the school’s wiki where I make posts directed at kids and faculty. We all know the hassle that erupts when someone in the community takes any kind of comment from a particular teacher and generalizes it to the entire grade, division, school, district, ad nauseum. Any form of public speech brings those risks. Public, linkable writing is N-times more dangerous, and god-forbid something as impromptu as Twitter. All it takes is one teacher making an off-the-cuff reply to a snarky blog post and . . .wait, maybe we better rethink this positive social media policy again. Are we sure we want to do this?
While I recognize the need for disclaimer language, it stirs up a bunch of ornery in me. As halting and obscure as my writing may be, it’s my practice and I’m sticking by it. There are days when I’m actually proud of it. So while I recognize the systemic and legal necessity of providing the institution distance from each employee, I hate having to wave that flag myself. My writing doesn’t reflect the views of my employer, but it does reflect the views of this employee.
So, let’s disclaim. The words posted here come from an individual, not an organization. When I write about my hope for drastic changes to the K-12 classroom space, that does not reflect the current or immediate future policies of the school. When I discuss the central role of TMBG in the development of curious adolescents, I’m speaking from personal belief and not reflecting the curriculum maps of the school. The school does not operate a Writer’s Guild in WoW. The school does not have “productive farting around online” as an academic standard.
I started thinking about a positive frame for teachers and social media when I realized how skittish I was when positing about topics and ideas that are central to any meaningful discussion of K-12 ed. The direct consequence of a policy change should be that teachers feel empowered to write and imagine in public, even if those ideas move beyond the current operation of their current school. The secondary, and hopefully transformative, effect is that the school could see the huge reach and potential of their faculty, see the dreams that exist well outside 45-minute chunks of isolated content. Encouraging faculty to express their practice, pedagogy and experience means that those traits are now visible and available to the whole community!
I’ve seen the amazing outcomes from a small cadre of teachers blogging and thinking in concert. I’m twitterpated about the potential for a sizable community within a single school, providing meaningful channels of communication between distant grades and departments. If the benefit from that open engagement doesn’t grossly outweigh the downsides, then I think there’s a much deeper problem.