The main reason many educators or education students do not post about controversial and pressing social issues online is due to the fear that they will offend someone. If they say the wrong thing online or make a mistake in what they share, many educators worry that it would cost them their job. This fear is understandable, as there are teachers who have been fired over inappropriate social media posts. However, the majority of these cases are the result of blatantly racist comments, negative remarks about students, or sexual misconduct online. While educators do need to be cautious of what they post, this does not mean they should stay silent.
Imagine this, you post a statement on Twitter regarding the recent Black Lives Matter protests and then you begin to receive comments saying that your post is potentially problematic or offensive. You are confused, as you never intended to hurt anyone with your post. You read through each comment, do some research online, and realize you made a mistake. Your choice of words was not appropriate. To fix the issue, you reply to the comments on your post and make a new post where you apologize for your mistake and explain how your stance has changed. You do not make the same mistake again because you learnt and grew from it.
You are later applying for a teaching position and your potential employer refuses to hire you because of this minor mistake you made on social media; a mistake that you sincerely apologized for and learnt from. Let’s be honest here, if an employer will not hire you over something such as this, then you do not want to work for that employer anyway. We are human beings. We are prone to mistakes, and if your employer is not understanding of that then I can guarantee you would not enjoy working for them. Do not get me wrong, there are social media posts that cross a line. If you are being purposefully and blatantly rude, sexist, racist, or offensive to people online, that is a completely different story. However, if you make a small mistake due to an incorrect choice of wording or outdated information that you sincerely apologize for and grow from, I believe there is no reason you should struggle to be hired as an educator in our modern society.
This is not to say educators should post whatever they wish online. It is very important that you are knowledge, inclusive, respectful, and professional when posting on social media, regardless of whether you are using a public or private account. As a teacher, it is part of your job to educate yourself before posting about a topic, consider multiple perspectives, and always question what kind of message you are portraying online. This way, you are doing everything in your power to ensure you do not make a mistake or share something potentially offensive. If you are ever unsure about whether or not it is appropriate to post something, consider these dos and don’ts regarding social media usage for teachers.
There is simply no growth in staying silent. Remaining silent online about a controversial cause you claim to believe strongly in makes your claim appear insincere. You can read more about the repercussions of educators staying silent here. Actively participating in and contributing to online conversations about anti-oppressive education is an essential part of being a positive role model for your students. As teachers, we shape our society’s future. If we do not take the lead in speaking out about injustice, then who will? When you post using the #BlackLivesMatter or share an article about how Pride month celebrations are being moved online you are proving that you genuinely support each of your diverse students unconditionally. You are publicly displaying your belief in anti-oppressive education and engaging in conversations about social justice. You are encouraging and teaching others to celebrate the differences among us. You are allowing yourself to learn and grow as an educator. In my opinion, there is nothing more important than that.