TBT Recollections of a High School Counselor: “Life in the Fishbowl” Are Teachers Targets?” 4/12

We’ve all read about instances where teachers have been reprimanded, suspended or even fired for statements, photos or ads they’ve posted on Facebook, a personal blog or even Craigslist, even though their work violates no laws and was posted on their own time outside their work day. There have also been several cases where teachers have been disciplined  when things they did long before entering the teaching profession and completely legal, are discovered and made an issue of.  I tell you, Big Brother is watching, and he’s watching teachers!

It seems teachers have become the primary targets of watchdog groups, administrators and vigilant parents everywhere and are held to a much higher standard than other professionals. By stepping into the classroom teachers have given up their most basic personal freedoms and must adhere to a strict moral standard expected by school boards, administration and parents everywhere. Is this fair? I don’t think so!  Teachers are already overworked and underpaid with deplorable working conditions. Yes, that’s right. If you think working in an overcrowded classroom without the benefit of an aide and a shortage of supplies is anything but deplorable, boy are you wrong! Now we have another deplorable condition of employment that follows us even in our private lives.

I have always believed that what I do on my own time is my business. When my workday ends my responsibility to my job end, plain and simple. Most working people accept this as a fact of life. Why then should it be so different for a teacher? So much more is demanded of them. Many school districts have a morality clause built into their rules that require teachers to “conduct themselves, both in their employment and in their community in a manner that will reflect credit upon themselves and the school system.”  An opinion voiced by one school board member in another state but shared by many others across the country states that “Everyone has a right to do what they want on their own time even teachers, but once kids and parents see it on the internet, it becomes the school districts problem.” In other words teachers are allowed to enjoy all the rights afforded to them by society, as long as they don’t enjoy them in public.

Talk about life in a fishbowl! I’m telling you teachers lives are an open book. everybody’s watching. Teachers today are like Hollywood celebrities being hounded by paparazzi just hoping to catch them off guard, but worse because half the time teachers don’t realize they’ve done anything wrong until it’s too late. Consider the teacher who was suspended for writing in her blog one evening that sometimes her students behave like “rude, disengaged, lazy whiners.”  Suspended? Really?  Or how about the “Teacher of the Year” who was fired because on his FaceBook page he had expressed his personal distaste about gay marriage. Fired? Really?

Then there was the teacher who was forced to resign after a parent objected to a photo she had posted on FB showing her holding a drink while on vacation. The district said the posting “promoted alcohol use.”  The teacher took the school district to court to contest her forced resignation and lost! Can you believe that?  And what about the teacher suspended for posting a series of pictures on FB that included one of her looking down the sight of a rifle! There are many more such cases just last month we had the Oxnard teacher who was placed on administrative leave, where she remains today, because it was learned that before becoming a middle school teacher for a brief moment in time she had been a porn actress! Yeah the news channels were all over that one.

So I ask you, where do we draw the line. Certainly teaching is a profession that carries with it a mountain of responsibility. We are educators but we are also role models and should conduct ourselves appropriately both in the classroom and out. But should our responsibilities as teachers impede our individual rights and freedoms?

There’s something dreadfully wrong when a teacher can no longer share personal opinions on  social or political issues, or work to support a cause they wholeheartedly believe in for fear of upsetting a parent or district administrator, or possibly even losing our jobs!  We still have rights ladies and gentleman! We are not sheep yet! And we have the right to not only have an opinion but to share it if we wish, be it a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, a response to an internet article, FB or our personal blog! Hell we can shout it from the rooftops if we want! It’s our right!

Teacher’s should not be targets.  As long as we don’t break the laws of the land, what we do on our own time should not be anyone’s business but our own. If we choose to blog or post then so be it. As long as we do so tastefully and with some degree of respectability, there shouldn’t be an issue. If, however,  some narrow-minded, red-neck conservative, simpleton wants to take issue with what we’ve written, oh well! That’s his right….

 

Don’t Tread on Me…

 

 

 

 

 

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