Recent changes to the Code of Conduct make it clearer than ever that there are high standards to maintain when you are both a teacher and an online communicator.
Here are some hints on how to stay online and stay inside the Code of Conduct.
Have an online life away from the portal
- Have a private email account and use it for social media sites, banking, shopping, community and other online activities.
- Keep your politics out of your portal. The new Code of Conduct specifically warns against emailing politicians from your Departmental email address.
- Don’t mention your employer on your social media accounts. For example there is no need to list your employer on Facebook and it is good practice to include a statement such as “all comment is my own” on your Twitter profile.
Keep your professional communication within the portal
- You must “not invite students into your personal network site”. This is now a black and white statement at 23.1.v of the Code of Conduct.
- Communication with students, including text messaging, email, telephone or social media needs to have a “valid context”. It should be professional in content, about school only and in a school based online context such as school email, Moodle or TALE for students.
Be professional in your communications with students and parents
- There are plenty of warnings in the Code of Conduct about what not to do online with warnings against messages which are violent, racist, offensive, malicious, libellous, slanderous and more.
- Stop, think, ask a colleague to proofread not just for the grammar but the sentiment before you send, especially to a more demanding parent or carer.
In the mind of the Department, students don’t stop being so the minute they sign out of year 12. You still met them as their teacher, and becoming too friendly too quickly has led to allegations of misconduct for a number of teachers.
Also, remember that electronic communication is difficult to erase and has been produced as evidence of misconduct and even as evidence in court.