Socially Active Media

Activism in the public eye can be both rewarding and dangerous simultaneously. I consider myself to be a privileged person based on societal constructs that simply place me in a position of influence (not because everything has been handed to me or because I have not faced challenges or discrimination).

That being said, my comfort level of posting about controversial issues online is very limited. Being in a position of privilege means there are many reasons for me to be an ally online. However, teachers working in the public eye seem to always be held to a higher standard of responsibility than many other professions, and navigating the political landscape can be like wandering through a field of landmines. This, I feel, is why teachers are often silent online about social justice issues. When taking a selfish approach, many educators remain silent because of the fear of jeopardizing their career one way or another (be it: signing a permanent contract, climbing the ranks, or remaining in their comfort grade level/school). Depending on the controversial issue, there could be job action from the division level or STF. Wouldn’t we hate to lose out on an opportunity because of something posted to social media?

Does this justify silence? No. But it does explain many educators’ excuses or reasons for remaining silent on social media. As Katia Hildebrandt says, “We have a responsibility to risk our privilege to give voice to social inequities and injustices. We have a responsibility to risk our privilege to give voice to those who have no privilege to risk.” So yes, I am selfish for not using my position of privilege to discuss and post controversial issues online and I fall under the category I mentioned above that live in a bit of fear of being too public about personal stances, beliefs, and repercussions of public opinions (especially in dealing with the ‘unknown’ subject matter like COVID-19). *See below for Responsible Use vs. Acceptable Use policies for schools.*

Many teachers choose to deal with these conflicts in their classrooms with their students. But what underlying message is being expressed here? Perhaps the unwillingness to publicly share our thoughts shows students that the safe space is within the classroom but teachers are too fearful to branch out and

take a risk in public, or that teachers will only discuss difficult topics in their classrooms but not practice what we preach in our daily lives. We are often comfortable with difficult conversations in the classroom, so shouldn’t we be most prepared to handle backlash and rude or disrespectful comments?

Personally, I see both sides to the argument.

Teachers are societal leaders.

However, I do not post much at all to social media and remain quite private.

I know of many social media or “keyboard” warriors that will repost social justice issues but never actually do anything about after hitting send. This can be viewed in several ways. 1. They post about every issue and cannot find one to focus on. 2. When focusing on one issue, what other voices are being silenced? 3. Why keep posting if you are not going to actively do anything?

When I avoid posting activist items to my Insta Story or Facebook, it supports silence. A larger audience I could reach is definitely on Twitter using hashtags. Dr. Couros and Dr. Hildebrandt “suggested that schools move away from “acceptable use” policies (which take up the cybersafety model) and work to adopt “responsible use” policies” which would allow me (and other educators) to feel more secure in social activism within a career standpoint, and in general life. I am taking a selfish stance by not engaging with followers revolving around social justice issues. A goal going forward would be to begin integrating these pieces into my daily routine, rather than the one-off mentions of support (like a Facebook profile pic with a filter, or a black post for BLM).

Therefore, a question for debate: where is the line? As educators, can we take on all issues on social media if “silence speaks louder than words”?

Thanks for taking the time to read. I appreciate any and all feedback… this is a difficult topic to clearly and succinctly articulate!

6 thoughts on “Socially Active Media

  1. Unfortunately, the line is sometimes drawn by obligations that are out of our control. Like you said previously, in many of our contracts it directly talks about what we can and cannot say to the media. If we toe that line or cross it, there can be job action against us. Another issue raised there, is even if we do stand up and toe the line and job action is taken, subsequently it can also be a detriment when finding another job. Do they write those contracts on purpose? You bet they do, to protect many stakeholders. Is it fair? I don’t think so, but I can see both sides of it too. It is interesting indeed, and if I were in a better position to speak out I would in fact do so more. But do I sacrifice my livelihood? I’m not sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally agree. I enjoy getting into some of these conversations with my students (grade 7&8) and exploring social justice in that manner, rather than posting to my friends and family that follow me. Twitter has a greater reach, but with many eyes comes more scrutiny. Thanks for the response, Kelly!

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  2. I find myself struggling with this at the moment. As I become more experienced in my profession and learn about new issues, I would like to be less silent. But there’s always a voice in the back of my mind that is worried about privacy. I am not someone that posts a lot, to begin with, so it’s been a challenge! I also wonder if I know enough about a topic before posting or sharing anything.

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    1. I think back to ED 804 looking at curriculum… so many voices are silenced within the curriculum we teach every day. To me, changing these documents and our pedagogy around social issues is more beneficial to activism than posting a story to Instagram. Thanks for the comment!

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  3. Reblogged this on A Journey into Social Media and Education and commented:
    Well written and well thought out, Dalton. I feel like I am very similar to you. I am not active on social media, particularly when it comes to speaking out about social issues. There is no doubt that venturing into polarizing or controversial issues poses a level of risk for educators. As you mentioned, Covid has demonstrated this. Last year, we were explicitly told by our division not to share our personal views on vaccination. While this applied to being in the classroom, I feel there was inherent risk to posting my personal views on social media. What if a parent viewed my posts and brought them forward to senior administration? Could there have been possible repercussions? I’m not sure I am willing to find out.

    Contrarily, I totally agree with what you are saying with setting an example for our students. If teachers, who students look up to, are not willing to take a stand and attempt to make a difference, why would our students follow suit. It does seem hypocritical to encourage students to fight for what they believe in, and then not do it ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Completely agree. There is some hypocrisy involved, but like you, I am also unwilling to find out what the repercussions may be. The same idea that I replied to Megan’s comment is: “I think back to ED 804 looking at curriculum… so many voices are silenced within the curriculum we teach every day. To me, changing these documents and our pedagogy around social issues is more beneficial to activism than posting a story to Instagram” Thanks for the comment!

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