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Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Conundrum of Social Media and Teaching

The good and bad of social media has been debated relentlessly in the world of education. How can we use it as a teaching tool? Is grammar and penmanship being tossed out the window? Are kids too "wired"? Is the art of communication lost?

The good: Classroom websites and blogs are the norm. Students can navigate any wireless device faster (and sometimes more effectively) than we can. They have access to global classrooms and virtual field trips to places they would otherwise never see. Later this spring, they will even be required to take a high-stakes assessment completely online! I have an example, as I'm sure many of you do, of students using technology to communicate with one another with our book review blog.

The bad: Research has been done on whether or not the overuse of technology causes delays in language, shortened attention spans, and a society of immediate gratification.

But something that has come up recently in this wireless life is the ugly side of social media. A colleague of mine was recently bad-mouthed via an angry parent publicly on facebook. This parent disagreed with a comment her child received on a particular assignment, and instead of talking to the teacher, or even an administrator, she wrote a very slanderous post, describing in detail how horrible this teacher was for the comment. What's worse were the comments she received on her post. "Vicious" is too mild a term. These people were out for blood, not just from this particular teacher, but from teachers in general. in a small town, of course the post got around to the teacher in question. Knowing how difficult it is to have a torrent of negativity thrown at you, and knowing how much I love my own students and want nothing but the best for them, I can only imagine her heartbreak.

We teach our students about cyber bullying. It has been in the news. It has devastated so many lives. And it can happen to anyone, even teachers! These lessons have no effect when they see their parents, the most influential people in their young lives, participating in this disgusting behavior.

Teaching is already a profession ripe with controversy.  Whether we like it or not, we've always been a huge political puppet from all sides. A love of children and a strong desire to help them succeed is no longer enough. Now we are parents, parole officers, nutritionists, social workers, mediators, and so much more. But through all the change, for good or bad (or ugly), it all comes back to a passion for developing the human spirit. I wouldn't change my career choice for anything! It's not just a job, it is the essence of who I am. It is my mark on the world, small as that may be.

I know I have a few parents who follow my blog, so I'd like to tell you that I love your children, as I loved last year's class, and the year before. I will always strive to make them feel respected, successful, and safe within my classroom. I will respect your input as a parent. After all, who knows your child better than you? I have, and will continue to encourage you to be a partner in this educational journey. Thank you for sharing your beloved children with me!

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