While it is your right to be able to use Facebook in your personal life, you must be cautious about your usage when you are in an occupation where you are looked at as a role model for children. Oftentimes, your intent is not clear in a status message because you cannot convey the tone you wish to express.
You can say something as simple as “I can’t wait for the weekend.” And most people will read it for what it is: someone who is exhausted and feels as though they need a break. There is nothing wrong with that! However, you will have some people who put a totally negative twist on it and assume you hate your job and that you are miserable. The next thing you know, it is blown out of proportion. This kind of misinterpretation is not only annoying, but it can be detrimental to your workplace reputation, which may result in a time-consuming effort to clear up the misunderstanding or termination (if the interpretation was more sever). Follow my advice to keep you out of Facebook trouble:
CLEAN UP YOUR PROFILE BEFORE YOU START YOUR FIRST JOB:
All of those old pictures from college where you are passed out on your neighbor’s floor with a beer still in your hand should probably be deleted. While you and your friends may have found them to be funny at the time, perhaps those were not the best choices and should not be seen by people who you interact with on a professional level.
MAKE YOUR PROFILE PRIVATE:
The first rule is to set your account to a more PRIVATE setting!! No one will be able to search for you this way. However, the only people that can seek you out to request you as a friend are those who are friends with your current friends. So, with that said, if you are friends with a co-worker on Facebook who chooses to be friends with students, those particular students can search for you. If students do seek you out to be friends, use that opportunity to make it clear to your students that you must keep a professional relationship with them and prefer not to be friends with them on Facebook. Trust me, students are very understanding of this situation and they do not take it personally; they understand where you are coming from.
DO NOT FRIEND STUDENTS (PAST OR PRESENT):
Many teachers and school professionals who do not allow current students to be their Facebooks friends, will allow former students to be their friend. While it may seem like a lesser evil, that idea is not great either. Just because a student has graduated, does not mean they are cut off from any connection at your school. It only takes one comment or picture to be taken out of context and the whole student body hears about it. Believe me when I tell you, it is just NOT worth it.
DO NOT POST INAPPROPRIATE PICTURES/COMMENTS:
Just because you do not have any friends who are not students, does not mean you should continue to post inappropriate pictures of you dressed provocatively at a Bachelorette party. Some things should just be kept private. However, if you are Facebook friends with co-workers, bad rumors can start to go around about you and you are suddenly discredited for all of the hard work you put in each day to teach your students. Is this fair? NO WAY! But these things happen and this is merely a warning of what could come.
LIMIT THE CO-WORKERS YOU ARE FRIENDS WITH:
Be careful which co-workers you are friends on Facebook. Make sure they are actually your friend before you let them be so on Facebook. This social networking site can really give great insight into your personal life- via pictures, posts, comments, etc. Not everyone you know or interact with on a daily basis needs to know all of those details about you. So take my advice when I tell you, make sure you know the person before you let them be your friend. You do not need to get called to the principal’s office about something private you posted on Facebook- that would be embarrassing!
However, I do understand that it can sometimes be awkward if you do not accept a friend request from a co-worker. In this situation, you need to make sure you control your privacy settings and limit what those people see. Perhaps you do not want them to have access to your wall or to view your pictures. In this situation, perhaps limiting your profile can save you a whole lot of trouble and even your job!
DO NOT POST ANY COMMENTS ABOUT OR PICTURES OF STUDENTS:
Recently in the news a whole lot of teachers have gotten in trouble for posting pictures of students on Facebook to poke fun of them. In addition, many teachers have also made mean and hurtful comments about students on their Facebook pages, which consequently cost them their jobs. And quite frankly, they deserved to be fired for that kind of behavior. Teachers and other school professionals alike should never reveal students identity. Many times school officials need to check parents’ IDs before they check students out of school; aunts, uncles, and grandparents cannot pick up students unless they have been approved at the beginning of the school year. Protecting students is a huge part of our job. In addition, it is illegal to release information about students, especially without permission. If a teacher announces to the class that a particular student in the class got a C on a test, that teacher could easily get in trouble, and even loose his/her job. Students’ rights are heavily protected under FERPA; so just remember that you can lose your job for giving out any kind of information about a student, especially in a public forum. If that student’s parents see what you posted about their child on Facebook, you will not just be dealing with the school, you will be dealing directly with the angry parents.
NEVER POST WORK DRAMA OR COMPLAINTS:
If kids can get in trouble for complaining about other students on Facebook, then you can too! As a rule in general, do not take to Facebook to “air your dirty laundry” or complain constantly; it is unprofessional and obnoxious. Do not post information about a confrontation you had about another co-worker. Not only is it just a passive-aggressive way of dealing with a hostile situation, but it is inappropriate and many may consider it to be a form of bullying (or at least immature)! You do not want to stoop to a level to where you are airing personal information in a public forum- it does NOT make you look good. And you do not want to lose respect around your workplace. Some of the hardest working professionals work in a school setting; do not add more stress to your already busy and hectic day!