Student teachers still learning

Social media has made it easier for people to connect with one another more than ever before, but it has made it even harder for students coming out of college to grasp the idea of what is and is not appropriate to display online.

This is something that the education department at Shippensburg University, more specifically, Herbert L.Steffy, director of field experiences and partnerships within the college of education and human services on campus, spends time addressing with students preparing to begin student teaching.

“In the pre-student orientation session I have with them [students], I do talk about it [social media],” Steffy said.

Steffy, who acknowledged that he cannot speak for the faculty when it comes down to how professors may advise their students on appropriate web content, did say that he gives students a fair warning that social media can affect their roles as student teachers.

“To try and act like it does not exist is ridiculous, so you have to learn to deal with it,” Steffy said. “Once you put it out there, it’s there.”

SU has had its share of mishaps when it comes to social media and student teachers in the past, but has continued to walk the line when it comes to how its students are displaying their social lives on the internet.

While some students have changed their name on social media sites in the past to protect themselves from other viewers, Steffy offered a safer alternative to ensure their privacy and protection: A separate email account.

This way, according to Steffy, if a student teacher needs to interact with the class via email, there will be no chance that anything they are tagged in through social media will end up in the students’ inbox. He also recommended that if a student teacher were to be checking their social media accounts, it should be happening before or after they walk in or out of the classroom in which they are teaching in.

Steffy continued by saying that the education department cautions its student teachers on “friending” or trying to connect with the students they are working with — before and after their student teaching assignment. Doing so, Steffy assured, is not only a violation of professional ethics, but also something that can have a graduate’s teaching certificate revoked.

“They’re not district employees, but they are functioning as teachers,” Steffy said. “If there is anything between them and a student, the student teacher is the responsible party because they are older.”

Conclusively, Steffy noted the numerous benefits technology can offer for teachers and the many tools it can provide for the classroom. But he also added that in one way or another, it is an obstacle students have to tackle in order to avoid jeopardizing their careers.

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