Missouri SB54 a slap at teacher professionalism
by Matt Schott
A slap in the face. And an unexpected one at that.
When I first read SB54, that was my reaction. And not a slap to my First Amendment rights, either, though I believe those rights are threatened by the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act and informs much of the anger over this from journalism educators.
No, to me, this was a slap in the face to my professionalism, my credibility, my trustworthiness.
In any profession, these are the qualities people try to build and nurture. With a swipe of his pen, what Gov. Jay Nixon (and to an extent State Sen. Jane Cunningham, who wrote the bill) did was wipe away those three things which I hold dear. Because what he did was cast teachers into the same category of respect generally reserved for criminals.
SB54 essentially said teachers were not fit to maintain a professional relationship with the students whom they have taken great steps to build and nurture relationships, no matter the medium. While I consider myself to be well-versed in the field of journalism, I consider myself (and most good educators) to be better in the field of connecting with students where they are most comfortable. Good educators work to make sure they have positive relationships with their students. More than anything, it is what makes us good educators.
What Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have evidently forgotten is that private conversations happen all the time at school. On Aug. 16, a Tuesday, I had no fewer than six private conversations with students. All of them were about things relating to education. Some were simple, like asking for the definition of a word. Others about projects that have been assigned.
These two public servants obviously don’t know much about the public they serve. They should watch this. Facebook is the most trafficked site on the Internet and high school students have driven that traffic almost since the site’s inception. As it says on the linked video: “We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”
By seeking to take educators out of the social media equation, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have ensured Missouri students will “do social media” worse than students in the rest of the nation.
By seeking to take educators out of the social media equation, by not allowing educators to teach and model what a positive social media presence looks like, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have made it that much harder for Missouri students to succeed in the digital marketplace.
By seeking to take educators out of the social media equation, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have taken away an avenue – sometimes the only avenue they feel safe in – for troubled students to communicate with someone they trust: their teacher.
Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham did have some successes with this bill, perhaps in spite of themselves.
By seeking to take educators out of the social media equation, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have drawn the attention of the nation to the educational practices in our state and shown the nation that they, at least, don’t believe in the job Missouri teachers are doing. Thanks for your support.
By seeking to take educators out of the social media equation, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have succeeded in making a difficult job more difficult. Not being able to communicate with trusted students in a medium they feel comfortable in inhibits the learning and success of all students. Thanks for the extra work, we need more of it.
And finally, by seeking to take educators out of the social media equation in Missouri, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have angered a very vocal and active political force: educators. Make no mistake, teachers in Missouri are upset (to use a school appropriate word) by this law. Teachers in Missouri are conferring about this law. And soon, very soon, I hope teachers in Missouri will be working with wonderful organizations like the Student Press Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union, to battle and overturn this ill-informed, poorly written and insulting law. You’re welcome. By giving the educators of Missouri a little bit more work to do, we’ll help you learn through experience and hopefully, as you reflect upon this once SB54 is overturned, you’ll have learned something.
All in a day’s work.