That's always happened, and I imagine it always will. Electronic media certainly gives greater access. But while it may also give the illusion of creating a private space, it's also written evidence.
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There is definitely an issue here, though. Electronic communication is different. And while schools are creating web portals and actively encouraging online contact between staff and pupils, there are all sorts of guidelines warning us never ever to use Facebook with students, or to give out our personal mobile phone numbers or email addresses. The trouble is, it's very easy for the lines to get blurred.
Public and private space get muddied.
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Mike, who teaches in London but — like the others interviewed for this piece — prefers not to be identified, cites the example of a teacher accompanying a school trip. So what do you do? You don't want to risk losing the kids, so you give them your own mobile number. And once that's happened, once a number is out there. And emails, too; I've sent personal emails to sixth-formers wishing them luck with their exam the next day.
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Alastair is responsible for his school's applications to Oxford and Cambridge. An email or text is very much a one-to-one thing; a pupil might feel specially valued.
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Even on the school site, I could be marking online, live, maybe quite late in the evening. I could have had a glass of wine. I could start discussing work with a student who's also online. It's Facebook by another name, really.
Blurred boundaries for teachers
You could easily make comments you'd regret. It's not just teachers, though, who risk breaking the new rules. Digital communication is a two-way street. Phil Ryan, a now-retired science teacher from Liverpool, briefly became an unlikely — and, as far as he was concerned, unwished-for — internet sensation last year when mobile phone footage of him doing the funky chicken for a sixth-form class on the last day of term was posted on YouTube and attracted more than 5, viewings and plenty of adverse comments within days. Earlier this year, more than 30 pupils were suspended from Grey Coat Hospital School, a Church of England secondary in London, after dozens of girls joined a Facebook group called The Hate Society and posted hundreds of "deeply insulting comments" about one of their teachers.
According to a survey this spring for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the Teachers Support Network, as many as one in 10 teachers have experienced some form of cyberbullying. The consequences can be serious for teachers, many of whom are less technologically sophisticated than their students: That can be incredibly distressing. And they can do worse; there was a case in one school where pupils took a photo of a teacher's face, edited it onto a really gross, pornographic image of another woman's body, and stuck it online.
It has called for any school policy that requests or requires teachers to disclose their mobile numbers or email addresses to pupils to be banned; wants new legislation to outlaw teachers being named on websites; would like strategies to prevent all use of mobile phones when school is in session; and has even demanded that pupils' phones be classed as potentially dangerous weapons. But they've thrown up new pressures and concerns.
Blurred boundaries for teachers | Education | The Guardian
For a start, they've changed expectations of teachers — there's a real expectation in some schools now that teachers will basically be available at the convenience of the pupil. There's also, with email, an expectation of a more or less instant response. And these forms of communication are far more informal, in style and content. You respond in a way you never would in a letter, or face to face.
Email and texts, Keates notes, are routinely abbreviated, "which can lead to misinterpretation, and accusations that the boundaries of a professional relationship are being crossed.
Teachers, Keates says, feel "increasingly vulnerable". A lot of the union's casework involves the use of mobile phones in schools, particularly in the classroom. In some cases, teachers have had to defend themselves against allegations of misconduct from schools following the anonymous posting of classroom videos that they were not even aware had been filmed. Faced with the real risk of members either falling into difficulty involuntarily, or being deliberately targeted for abuse, unions and authorities have begun running extended courses for teachers on the pitfalls of new technology.
Fiona Johnson, director of communications at the General Teaching Council for England, says the new GTCE code for teachers, which comes into effect on 1 October, has a reference to the need for "teachers to maintain appropriate professional boundaries with children and young people". Although this is "clearly not very specific", she concedes, "trainee teachers get more detailed advice during their initial training, local authority co-ordinators cover the issue with each cohort of newly qualified teachers, and schools have their own policies on these issues.
Most trainees are clear in their view that they would be unwise to open up their Facebook profiles to pupils, for example — and also aware from teaching practice that school policies now often specifically tell staff not to do so. In terms of texting and phones, we just advise very strongly that teachers do not make themselves accessible in any way at all that might be considered not appropriate. False allegations of misconduct can have a truly devastating impact on a career. Some teachers regret the way things are heading. Teachers have to follow rules, too, and these ten actions can get you fired faster than you think.
Become Romantically Involved with a Student: Steer clear of romantic relationships of any kind with anyone in your class, your school, or under the age of 18…. Lie on Your Job Application or Resume: Always tell the truth. Your real qualifications need to be enough to get the job you want. To become a teacher, you need certain credentials in each state. Lying is cheating yourself and your prospective students out of a qualified teacher.
Job Hunt at Work: If you are looking for a job, do it outside the school walls and off your work computer. Worse than that, your colleagues or students might find out about your job search and stop trusting you and question your level of commitment.
The teachers lounge is not the place to air your dirty laundry. A student story you might find funny others could view as highly inappropriate and grounds to call you untrustworthy, unprofessional or unethical. Taking Too Many Personal Calls: If you talk on your cell phone in class too much, your students will tell other teachers, their parents, or even the principal. Limit phone calls in class to absolute necessities- like calling a parent for an emergency. Surf the Web Excessively: This is probably a good idea to keep teachers focused on school during school hours.
Though each teacher may be alone with students in class, teaching really is a team sport. Schools are valued by their staff as a whole. Once those pile up, you could be on your way out even if you have tenure.