Social media has changed human behavior in countless ways. For many, what used to be reserved for venting to family and friends—and maybe even strangers on those really bad days—has morphed into fodder for public shaming. We see mommy bloggers writing about the most private struggles of their children. We see parents posting videos of how they punish their children. And we see all out social warfare among tweens and teens on sites like Instagram and Snapchat.
It is no secret that teachers vent about their days, their students, and yes, their students’ parents. All of us who have ever been teachers—or currently are teachers—have funny stories about hard-to-believe interactions we have had with parents. Some are just funny; others emanate from a place of frustration. But are those frustrations—and reactions to said frustration—fair game for sharing online? I vote no.
I stumbled upon the Tweet below this week but it is hardly the only one I’ve seen written by a teacher who is exasperated with their students’ parents. I suspect that the Twitter account is not her real name—now that I’ve been informed by people in the know that Petty Draper is a character on Mad Men—which does add a new twist to the tweet. She isn’t tweeting about affluent entitled parents under the name she uses in school. But the truth is, plenty of teachers do. I’ve scrolled through teachers’ Twitter feeds over the years that shame parents for being too involved and not involved enough. I’ve seen commentary on both Facebook and Twitter about “poor parents”, “irresponsible parents”, “helicopter parents”, and yes, “entitled parents,” and I do have to wonder if that kind of public venting—or shaming—is good for anyone.
I am so tired of being bombarded by parent emails on how their kids can do better. They can redo pretty much any assignment. I give extra credit every week. Affluence breeds entitlement. I’m over it. #teacherproblems pic.twitter.com/shGaauFbp0
— Petty Draper (@TeacherLifeBK) February 27, 2019
Some school districts seem to agree and educators are paying the price for online comments about students and parents. One Massachusetts teacher was asked to resign after parents spotted Facebook comments she wrote describing students as “germ bags” and parents as “snobby” and “arrogant.” The teacher says she thought only her “friends” could see the posts and warns people to check their privacy settings. While the focus on privacy instead of what she actually said seems to miss the point, to her credit, she did own the mistake.
I take full responsibility for my stupidity and I hope it serves as an example to kids that they need to be very, very vigilant about their privacy.
A Memphis kindergarten teacher found herself suspended without pay when folks discovered what she had written on her Facebook page:
How bout I blasted both of them. The girl in my class hair is nappy almost every day and the boy wears dirty clothes, face nasty and can’t even read. They didn’t bother nobody else when I got through with them.
Social media is not our kitchen table. It is not the table at Starbucks with our pals. It is not a book group. Or the gym. Or the sidelines of our kids’ games. It is a public forum. And that means that writing ugly things about people is, by definition, public shaming. It seems to me that posting negative things about parents and students is riddled with risk and never the professional or kind thing to do.
Does that mean that parents don’t create problems? No. Does it mean that parents are always right and teachers are always wrong? Absolutely not. Some parents are guilty as hell for shaming their own children and their kids’ teachers in public forums too. And that’s wrong too. But being an educator and engaging in insulting commentary online about the students and parents you serve reduces any chance for a productive and healthy partnership on behalf of children.
That is too high a price in my book.
What do you think?