As a teacher it is imperative to make conscious moral decisions to ensure my practice meets the ethical standards of conduct and responsibility set by the New Zealand Teacher’s Council. The use of social media is an area filled with pitfalls. Finding the balance between professional life and personal life can be a very delicate balance. “Today’s teachers are frequently confronted by ethical choices in situations that did not arise, or were relatively unproblematic for their counterparts 30 years ago.” (Hall, A. 2001 p 1)
There are four fundamental principles we are required to abide by:
“Application of the Code of Ethics shall take account of the requirements of the law as well as the obligation of teachers to honour the Treaty of Waitangi by paying particular attention to the rights and aspirations of Māori as tangata whenua.” (Education Council, n.d.)
These principles then should guide, influence and inspire educationalists throughout New Zealand. “It should be recognized that high ethical standards are most fully achieved by practitioners when those standards are also observed by employers, parents, students and community”.(Education Council, n.d)
It can be hard to manage this on social media.
Issues that have arisen at various times within our school include:
· Inappropriate personal postings by teachers. The social network is wide and although a teacher may not be friends with a parent of the school, another contact may be. In this way, posts which involve alcohol, personal beliefs or inappropriate behaviours can really be ticking time bombs.
· Inappropriate comments from within the wider community on school Facebook posts or classroom blogs. These can often be personal and addressed at staff members or children.
· Posting of photographs of children when they do not have permission for this from their family / whanau.
· Community members venting on a public forum.
At present we have a closed community Facebook page for our school. We have recently deleted all members who are not currently involved in the school. This caused a firestorm within the local community webpage. In deleting people we were following our school protocol and despite the rage, we have stuck to this protocol believing it to be appropriate. It will however, be up for review by the current community members later this year. The Facebook page is transitioning to be a repository for reminders about trips and sporting events, links to school newsletter and other day to day information only. All members can post to this page.
We are also in the process of building our school webpage. As a staff we have agreed that this is a better forum for photographs and descriptions of school activities and the appropriate place for friends and whanau to make links with student activities and achievements. Only staff and through them, students can post to this site. It includes class blogs to celebrate the work of our students. Comments are allowed on this page but are vetted by staff before publication.
In summary then, to adhere to our professional and ethical responsibilities we need to be constantly aware that all actions on social media may be visible to students, parents, whanau and employers. Social networking can be an incredibly powerful tool for both classroom use and the development of professional learning networks but it is in our own best interests to use social media and privacy settings responsibly.
Connecticut’s Teacher Education and Mentoring Program. (2012). Ethical and Professional Dilemmas for Educators: Facilitator’s Guide. Retrieved from http://www.ctteam.org/df/resources/Module5_Manual.pdfEducation/
Education Council. (n.d). The Education Council Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers. Retrieved from https://educationcouncil.org.nz/content/code-of-ethics-certificated-teachers-0
Hall, A. (2001). What ought I to do, all things considered? An approach to the exploration of ethical problems by teachers. Paper presented at the IIPE Conference, Brisbane. Retrieved from http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Culture/Developing-leaders/What-ought-I-to-do-all-things-considered