Mrs. Daubert ELA

Instructional Media Weblog

First Amendment Shmamendment – So You Want to Work in the Public Sector

It took me longer than I would have liked to get this post up and running but I had quite a bit to sort out in my own mind before setting it all down in type. Now more than ever, teachers are public figures. Social media can be advantageous and useful, but it can also get us into trouble. This article outlines the story of a teacher who got herself into some hot water when a parent caught sight of her social media page and didn’t appreciate the “off color” memes regarding the teaching profession she had posted.

Rather than dive right in with my own take on this hot issue, I’m going to start by examining several ways of looking at things using a four corners graphic:

My younger self would have fallen stoutheartedly into the “Strongly Disagree” corner. I would have railed against The Man. I would have insisted that teachers have a right to privacy and work-life balance. We have the right to express our opinions in whatever way we see fit. I would have been outraged that a parent had the audacity to complain over some innocently humorous memes. Clearly, this teacher was just blowing off some steam and who could fault her for that?!

Luckily, I am no longer my younger self. Self-righteous and a bit irritating, wasn’t she? The person I am today just finished her 13th year in urban public education in the town where she herself has lived her entire life. The “me” I am today falls into the “Strongly Agree” corner. I know this may not be a popular opinion among my colleagues but I’d like to take the time to explain how I’ve come to this conclusion.

I was a relatively late arrival to the social media game. I didn’t bother to join Facebook until 2009 and even then it was really just so I could communicate with friends and family who lived in far off places. My best friend was in Japan for a while, a former student with whom I’ve remained close joined the air force and was stationed in Yemen, my dearest aunt and uncle live in Florida–you get the idea.

In 2012, I lost 90 lbs. using a popular health program and for a time, worked as a coach for the program. It was then that I realized the raw power that exists in social media. I learned a great deal about advertising and using social media with purpose through seminars and workshops within this program. Somewhere along the line, I stopped coaching for the program and figured out how to use what I’d learned  in my teaching life.

All humility aside, homegirl’s social media skills are on point.

I made my Facebook page public five years ago and I’ve never looked back.  That being said, with great posting, comes great responsibility.

I am a lifelong member of the community where I teach, I went to school there myself, I reside within the district, and there are even students who live in my neighborhood. My next door neighbor was in my class two years ago AND I went to high school with both of her parents. I gave up on trying to keep my personal life to myself YEARS ago. Beyond that, I’ve come to believe that giving up most of my anonymity in my personal life is part of what it takes to do my job effectively. My community is economically depressed and for better or worse, I am far more involved in the lives of my students and their families than the average bear.

I’ve started several outreach initiatives outside the regular school day–a Friday night program in which teachers, students, and parents do social activities in the community, a free book crusade to provide as many community members as possible with quality reading material to foster a community-wide love of reading. I need my social media outlets–they are a massive ingredient to my success. Because of this, I take my social media posts very seriously. I would never post anything that might detract from my mission.

So, how exactly do I use my social media page with purpose?

The special projects I do require community and parental support. I use my social media to keep the community informed and to ask for help.

My most recent project is my reading initiative. Research shows that students who read for pleasure have a significant advantage over those who don’t–and that advantage increases astronomically when the adults in their households are readers as well. On that front, I’ve got two awesome things cooking this summer: a free book room for the students required to attend summer school in my building, and a stand at an outdoor community market where I give free books to community members. My social media has been crucial to my success. Here is a post from Facebook about the summer school book room:

I updated again when the book room was ready (I find it especially powerful to include photos and use humor when I can):

I definitely sprinkle some very intentional humor to get my followers to pay attention:

This has proven incredibly effective for me. My community knows what I’m up to, where my heart is, and what they can do to help or get involved. I’m not interested in jeopardizing that because I’m feeling extra free-speechy on any given day.

I do still CAREFULLY pick hot button issues to weigh in on

Sometimes, there are controversial topics that, as a human, I feel I can’t stay silent about. In these cases, I do comment but I am still very careful with what I say and how I say it. I recently spoke my piece about family separation at our southern border:

This post generated some backlash from a follower or two, but at the end of the day, I felt justified in expressing myself. On other occasions I have exercised extreme restraint. This year I had a student born female who identified as male (I’m going to use the pronoun “they” because that is what the student prefers). The student had recently shared this realization with their parents and it did not go well. I was a huge part of this student’s support network as they worked through this extremely difficult time. Because all of this was going on, I have not posted ANYTHING on my social media about LGBTQ rights recently even though it is an issue near and dear to my heart. I made this choice because I felt a deep responsibility to my student. If their parents saw a pro-LGBTQ post on my social media page, they could have requested their child be removed from my class and I no longer would have been able to provide the student with the support from a loving adult they so desperately needed. This more than any other reason is why I do believe we check some of our own free speech at the door when we become educators.

But, hey, I can’t be expected to be serious all the time…

Part of the joy my followers get from my page is that sometimes, I’m just one purely funny lady:

Most of all, though, my social media is my outlet to tell the world I’m proud of what I do.

During the final two weeks of school, a 6th grade student at my school was tragically hit by a car and killed. Our entire school grieved together, and a group of my 8th graders did something impressive beyond their years. Proud teacher that I am, told the world in this post

Similarly, after a very successful experience with my free book stand, I decided I wanted the world to know

After this many years of doing what I do, I truly believe that yes, we as educators give up some of our rights to free speech for the good of our communities. As Kermit would say:

Where do you fall on the four corners of this issue? Leave it in the comments!

Cheers!

Mrs. Daubert

5 Comments

  1. thisisliz0116

    July 1, 2018 at 6:06 pm

    Thanks for your post Becky! This is definitely that we all hear about in our schools. It is also hard when you live in the district, as you said in this post. Also, social media is just something to show stuff that we are proud of…I love posting pictures of my kids, my classroom (with permission), etc… It’s a blurred line. One wrong person can take something the wrong way and twist things. I am cautious of what I post online and try to keep my students private whenever I can. Different people have different views of social media so I try to respect that. Once something is out there, it is out there. Thanks!

  2. It was really entertaining to read your post and having seen your Flipgrid videos I can almost hear your voice as I am reading through it! I love that you are so immersed in your community and school through social media. It’s refreshing to see how you are using your platform in such a positive way and that you are very conscious about what you are posting and how it will effect others, but still staying true to yourself, your personality and your opinions.

    I chose the same topic as you did and I felt that your statements strongly supported your four corners for the discussion. The biggest reason I have yet to join Facebook is because of my profession. There are many teachers in my building that are friends with their student’s parents on FB and I feel they post a lot of fake things in order to look good for the parents. I also feel that it blurs the line of appropriate relationships with students and their parents. I know that there are people out there using FB for good, like you, but I just feel that there is still too much evil for me to be interested.

    Thanks for a great post,
    Jenn

  3. Scott Leitzel

    June 30, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    Mrs. Daulbert,

    Based upon the description of your situation, you sound like an incredible public servant and treasure to the community in which you live, play, and work. Kudos to you! Your students, parents, and community members are lucky to have you in their midst. You writing style is very easy and entertaining to read. I am surprised by your comment that you were late to social media. You seem like a natural.

    Thank you for sharing how your current view-point on the subject has changed over time. This was based upon your maturity in the profession as well as position living within the small community in which you live and work. These are all important factors that help shape a person’s opinion of should a teacher be forced to censor information that is posted online. In your blog post, there are three key points to keep in mind as a teacher who actively posts to social media. First, use your social media with a specific purpose. In your case, you post a lot of upcoming events for parents and students. The second idea shared is being careful about how much and what to post around hot-button issues. In your example, posting too much about a topic could push students away who would normally confide in you. Third, you’ve shared the art of – just because you can – doesn’t mean you should. As you shared, there are many topics you could post to social media – and would have every right. However, just because you can, does not mean you choose to. It is this lack of discretion that sometimes gets teachers in trouble with social media.

    Again, this was an awesome post. As other people chime in, what other “rules” would you add as advice to newer teachers to the field? These may be teachers you encounter at your school in August. What advice would you provide to them in reference to the topic of posting content to social media?

  4. rebekahdaubert

    June 29, 2018 at 8:59 am

    Kate, I’m so glad you’re my first comment on the post. Looking at YOUR post helped me figure out how I wanted to handle the four corners portion of the post so THANK YOU for the inspiration!! Thanks also, for the positive feedback. I have a big personality which rarely gets to come through in formal APA style reflections. I’m really enjoying the creative aspect of blogging for EDIM 516!

  5. I love reading your blog posts! They are so colorful and engaging! Great Job! About your content, I couldn’t agree more with you about social media. It takes a great deal of responsibility to refrain from interactions that could get us, teachers, in trouble. There are so many tools out there to help connect with others especially our families that social media seems to be the fall back for all of this. It is a great debate and feel it definately needs addressed during professional development days.

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