I think I frightened a bouncing baby admin this week. Since then, I have had visions of him reacting in a Monty Pythonesque "Run away!" mode.
Out of the umpty dozen PowerPoint presentations tossed our way this week was one that was supposed to be about cyberbullying. The admin started off by talking about how "freaky" MySpace is and how if you've never visited it, you would be shocked at how weird everything is and all of the terrible things found there.
This set my teeth on edge. To be sure, I do not have a MySpace page, but I immediately recalled one of the beginning teachers I mentored last year who did. How would she have felt, sitting there in one of the first faculty meetings of her brand new career, only to be told that what she did in her personal life was "freaky" and see so many nodding heads? I know that there are lots of MySpace pages out there that have posted features that are in no way appropriate for the school setting. But I can also say that I know grandparents who have pages just as a means for keeping up with their children and grandchildren who live far away. How many people sitting in that meeting might be harboring a MySpace or Facebook page, a blog, or maintain some other form of on-line presence?
Then the PowerPoint started---full of the most frightening (and likely overblown, considering this more recent study) statistics about on-line predators and so forth. He clicked through the some of the slides and stopped the presentation about halfway through. There was quite the buzz in the room, but no discussion was allowed. The end result was a group of stunned faculty, the majority of whom are now convinced that the internet is no good whatsoever. And none of it actually had any connection to cyberbullying...which was supposed to be the topic at hand. It really made me sad.
I sent the admin a note later. I rambled about my frustration. I told him that I hoped that as someone just entering that role, he would consider being more forward thinking about the future...and reaching kids where they live (which for most of them includes MySpace). Happy Chyck had a marvelous post not all that long ago about a similar discussion in her school. I think that we can all agree that cyberbullying is a serious issue---and one schools need to effectively deal with. We can also agree that not everything that is available on the internet needs to be seen at school...and that kids should be engaged during class time (and not hanging out on MySpace). But to be blanket in our agreement that social networking is for "freaks" is not okay. We need to be supportive of our students as they learn to navigate the real and virtual worlds---not stick our heads in the sand. We also need to be conscious of one another and what might be included with the cultures we bring to our workplaces---and make everyone welcome. I hate to think about how many teachers are going to want to "Run away!" from the profession when they hear others consider their on-line behaviour to be deviant.