Monday, August 7, 2017

I won't post that

My husband occasionally reads me things he finds of interest online. He shared this article with me  and a portion of it inspired me to reflect and write this post.

How much of my life should be public and how much should be private?

This blog is evidence that many aspects of my life are shared here:
- my thoughts
- my lessons and teaching units
- my volunteer jobs
- my opinions on books I've read
- my conferences I attend
- my colleagues and friends
- my interests outside education

People who know me, even from just online, know that
Do I overshare? Is it too much?

Careful examination of my blog and my tweets reveal that there are actually some areas that are absent from my online profile. There are deliberate omissions and particular rationales for those gaps.

1) Specific details about my children

There are parents who overshare online too much. This article refers to an entire blog focused on the practice and shared the "ten worst ways" but for me, it's less about being annoying and more about respecting my son and my daughter's privacy. This article from The Atlantic highlights the bigger issues of negatively impacting children's digital footprint / digital identity. Although I am extremely proud of my children, I try to refrain from posting photos and I ask their permission before I write anything about them. (This here is a rare photo of my son and daughter on a recent trip.) I googled my children's names and for both of them, the first legitimate link to them specifically are for things they have control over and chose to do.

These guidelines also extend to the children I teach. At one of the amazing ETFO Conference for ICT for Women sessions, there was an excellent presentation about respecting our students' privacy for their sake and for the sake of our safety. (ETFO has many articles that provide guidelines.) I block the names of students if/when I post an example of their work, and I avoid using photos of their faces. I found one picture that I didn't obscure the face in, and I'll need to fix that.

2) Complaints about specific people

Someone once told me that you should think carefully about to whom you complain about your spouse because you may forgive and forget, but the listener might not. The same goes for the Internet. There have been times that I've desperately wanted to vent about someone who was irritating me (this post and this one is the closest I've come to it, I think, and these were when I first starting writing my blog). However, feelings can change, but typed words online don't erase as easily. The deceptive anonymity of the Internet means that people can write some horrific and vitriolic things about people without considering how they would react. I don't want to contribute to the hateful content.

Teachers are supposed to follow a particular protocol when they have disagreements with their colleagues. It's onerous, but the procedures exists for a reason - to avoid libel and slander and a toxic work environment. Keep it positive, and if there's a problem, think twice if it's necessary to share it with the world.

3) Partying

I am not a teetotaller, but you won't read about any of my partying exploits here. The Ontario College of Teachers created a Professional Advisory in 2011 about the use of electronic communication and social media. In it (and you can see the document here), the college advocates caution with sharing inappropriate details of a teacher's private life.

There is a distinction between the professional and private life of a teacher. Practitioners are individuals with private lives, however, off-duty conduct matters. Sound judgment and due care should be exercised.
Teaching is a public profession. Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that teachers’ off-duty conduct, even when not directly related to students, is relevant to their suitability to teach. Members should maintain a sense of professionalism at all times – in their personal and professional lives

4) Specific Politics

Supposedly, the saying goes that there are three areas to avoid in casual conversation to prevent conflict: politics, religion, and abortion. Teaching itself is a political act. If we are interested in addressing social justice issues, it cannot be done in a vacuum. Here are a couple of recent tweets I shared from my timeline.

Having said that, there are some issues I'll avoid debating online, because my opinions would be more divisive than necessary. I would not want a student to ever feel uncomfortable talking with me about a subject because they fear my opinions, if they differ from theirs, would cause me to treat them negatively or judge them harshly.

So, did I miss anything? Some are obvious (this is a nudity-free blog, for instance). Are there any other areas that I don't post about? Topics that I do but I should stop? Topics I should start writing about?


  1. Thanks for sharing this fabulous list! I keep many similar things private, and for similar reasons. I keep going back to paragraph two under your first point though. This is something that I don't always do. I try to keep faces and names out of tweets, but sometimes this is a challenge. Some parents have asked that I include them so that they can easily recognize their own child's work (especially since I do share a lot during the school year). That said, I ask the permission of both parents and students before sharing content online. This is in addition to the permission form where parents sign off on this kind of sharing. Am I the only one (or one of the few people) that share in this way? How do others decide what to do? This is a topic that continues to intrigue me.


    1. Aviva, thanks for your reply. I think that by being responsive to individual requests to show and allow faces, you acknowledge that one size fits all solutions don't always work. Have you ever had a parent change their mind? The one example I havee is of parents who did not sign the media release form and said they did not want to allow photos shown - but when I talked to them about the yearbook, they were adamant that their child's photos definitely appear in the yearbook. Thankfully, I didn't exclude anyone's picture from the yearbook so there was no problem with this request. The opposite might be more challenging. I hope others chime in with how they decide what level of sharing is appropriate.


    2. I've never had a parent go back and decide to not allow pictures taken after allowing them in the first place, but I have had changes like the one that you mentioned. I often talk to parents that choose "no," and discuss if there's anything they would like. Some decide audio, but no visual, some decide everything but the face, some decide work only, and some decide nothing at all. I think these conversations and these different options for different students are so important!