In teacher training, I learned about professional standards and how teachers were held to a higher standard than the average person. We studied about appropriate behaviour in and out of the workplace and how the morals of a community would affect your teaching career. Recently I deepened my understanding on this topic. Supreme Court Judge Justice Bouck (as cited in Covert, 1993) ruled “that teacher conduct should be judged by the standards recognized in the community where the teachers are employed” and “teachers must not only be competent, they are expected to lead by example” (pg. 441). Thus appropriate behaviour, as deemed by the community or school, should be expected at all times, even when the teacher is not at work (British Columbia Ministry of Education, 2014).
My teacher training occurred when the internet was at its infancy. Today educators must not only consider their actions in and out of school also their on-line presence. I am fortunate that my exposure to social networking platforms happened as an adult rather than as a child or teen. Young people generally lack developed reasoning skills and have “started posting when their impulse control, long range projections and overall mature thought processes were barely emerging” (Hengstler, 2010, para 3). This can have unfortunate implications for today’s youth as the misdeeds of today can have digital permanency affecting them in the future (Kuehn, 2010).
One aspect of my digital footprint that I had not considered is that I may be judged based on the friends I have or groups to which I belong. Hengstler (2012) calls this the “birds of a feather effect” (slide 32), in which the character of my friends is seen to be a reflection of my own character. What I write may be perfectly appropriate but what my on-line community says may not. People could then form an opinion about my character based on comments or images of which I am unaware (Kuehn, 2010). Being held to a higher, professional standard in the community requires awareness of online behavior and connections, not just in-person.
British Columbia Ministry of Education. (2014). Standards for education, competence, and professional conduct of educators in BC. Retrieved from: http://www.bcteacherregulation.ca/Standards/StandardsDevelopment.aspx
Covert, J. (1993). Creating a professional standard of moral conduct for Canadian teachers: a work in progress. Canadian Journal of Education, 18(4) 429-445. Retrieved from: http://www.csse-scee.ca/CJE/Articles/FullText/CJE18-4/CJE18-4-11Covert.pdf
Hengstler, J. (2010, October 28). “Fleas in a bottle? Will social networking stymie personal development of youth?’ [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://jhengstler.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fleas-in-a-bottle-will-social-networking-stymie-personal-development-of-youth/
Hengstler, J. (2012). Digital professionalism and digital footprints [PDF document]. Retrieved from Lecture Notes Online Web site: https://d2l.viu.ca/content/enforced/56545-EDUC_OLTD506_W70_F2014/foundations_boundaries/Digital%20Professionalism%20%20Digital%20Footprints%20Final.pdf?_&d2lSessionVal=DxflGZQjxgHfo2KLdrB6vzKM9&ou=56545
Kuehn, L. (2010). “Manage your digital footprint”. Teacher Newsmagazine (23)3. Retrieved from http://bctf.ca/publications/NewsmagArticle.aspx?id=21794