Wednesday, March 21, 2012

LAUSD Social Media Policy in Plain English

Los Angeles Unified School District just released a new socialmedia (SM) policy for its employees.  I’ve read a lot of these policies in recent months and have helped craft guidelines for staff at my own district.   The fact that LAUSD has published guidelines is not unique. However, the policy seems to have generated a lot of press and controversy though in my reading I saw nothing ground-breaking or contentious. 

In plain, simple English here’s LA’s guidelines for teachers:

Keep personal and work accounts separate

Engage in inappropriate conduct and ‘we’re gonna get ya’

Don’t post pictures of students without permission

Don’t share confidential information

Don’t threaten, harass, bully or be an ass online

Set your privacy settings to high but be careful in case they fail

 If you tell people you’re a teacher, act like one

Don’t lie about who you are

If the world is falling apart you can blog that you’re ok – as long as you take care of your students first

Probably the biggest eyebrow raiser is #5 which states in part, “… User should have no expectation of privacy regarding their use of District property…”  The Union apparently doesn’t like this one but similar language is contained in nearly every Acceptable Use policy – corporate and school – that I’ve read.  When you’re at work assume big brother is watching or if you screw up will follow your digital footprint and act accordingly. If you don’t like it buy a smart phone and access Facebook from there.  

All in all there’s nothing new here.  The list above could be entitled “Best Practices for Teachers in an Online World.” 

*image credit -

Friday, March 16, 2012

HR for Principals: 16 Quick Interviewing and Selection Reminders

The hiring season will soon be upon the education world.  Here are a few quick reminders about interviewing, selection, and hiring for school administrators.

Before the Interview

1.    Review the job description and other information to determine the education, qualities, skills, etc., the successful candidate should have

2.    Use various search criteria and a rubric to select applicant to interview

3.    Assemble a diverse interview panel of at least three employees to conduct the interviews

4.    Create a list of questions pertaining to job duties (use your job description to write questions) and qualifications to ask each candidate

5.    Review their roles with panel members as well as topics (see below) to avoid

Conducting the Interview

6.    Allow a sufficient amount of time to conduct the interview

7.    Only ask questions determined ahead of time and reasonable follow-up questions

8.    Let the candidate do most of the talking

9.    As soon as possible after the interview, panel members should score the interviews or use whatever other evaluation method has been chosen

After the Interview

10. Check references

11. Have a non-panel member review social media sites and report back with information relevant (this person should redact any 'protected' information)to the selection process (Do not ‘friend’ job candidates) ((Checking SM sites an optional but growing practice)

(12 -14 vary by district - this process reflects the practice in mine)

12. Choose the desired candidate and report the selection to your Staffing Specialist

13. Do not offer the job to anyone or even tell someone she/he will be receiving an offer

14. Only HR can offer a job to a candidate

15. Send a letter to interviewees not selected

16. Maintain information relating to the interviewing and selection process for three years

Protected Categories




•Gender (includes pregnancy)


•National Origin

•Marital Status


 *Special thanks to colleagues Carol S. and Valarie W.  who co-presented on this topic with me.  I must admit that I stole some of their ideas.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Difficult Teachers? Why ask Why?


From the time we are three years old we want to know the answer?  Why do I have to go to bed?  Why do I have to eat my veggies?  

As we age the why question remains …

Why do I have to be in at 10?
Why doesn’t she love me?

Why can help us figure things out … it can help us make sense of our world.  But sometimes the why is an unnecessary impediment to our productivity and our ability to move forward. Let me give you an example.
Since September (yes, the start of the school year) I have been working with a principal to correct the behavior of a teacher.  The teacher was on a corrective action plan the main component of which was “teacher will work in a collegial manner with co-workers.”  In other words the teacher had a bad attitude that would manifest in her lashing out at those around her.  The plan included a provision for the principal and teacher to meet once a week and discuss the teacher’s interactions with others.  The principal would then coach her to do better.  The problem was that it wasn’t working (well duh!) for either the teacher or the principal.  

The meetings would go like this …

Principal, “It was reported to me (no direct observation) that you said such and such to so and so at Wednesday’s grade-level meeting.  Why did you do say that?”

Teacher (immediately on the defensive), “I didn’t say that … what I meant was … you weren’t there.”

Principal, “Well the assistant principal was and she said that you said that … why did you say that?”

Back and forth they’d go … on and on.  It was painful to watch.  And it must have been even more painful to be caught up in.

Now I wasn’t around when the plan was developed.  Had I been I would have told the principal that the plan sucked needed tweeking and it was destined for failure unlikely to produce positive results.  There was no way the teacher would ever improve and no way for the frustration to ever end.  

I was finally (after months of trying) able to convince the principal to scrap the plan and either start over with a better plan or address behaviors through other avenues.  The hook that finally convinced her was “what would you do if your learning plan for a second grade reading class was not producing results – you’d throw it out, right?”

“Well yeah.”

“Then we need to do the same thing here.  This plan is not producing results, it cannot produce results in its present form – it needs to go.”

Then came the aha moment.  The principal cried out, “But I just want to know why she acts this way!!!!” 

“What does it matter?”  She looked at me like I had 3 heads.

"Our goal here is to change her behavior … the why doesn’t matter.  In fact the why may get in the way of changing the behavior.”

My advice ...
Focus on the observable. Describe what you see. Explain the ramifications. Define consequences.

Here’s what it looks like in action.

Principal, “When you say in an angry tone, ‘Your idea is stupid.’ It disrupts the creative flow of the meeting and brings your colleagues down.  I expect you to use a pleasant tone of voice and for your contributions to add value to the discussion.  If you continue to speak in a distuptive manner I will have to document the behavior in writing.”

No arguing, no fruitless discussion, and everyone is clear on what went wrong.  Be as objective as possible.

Here another one.

Assistant Principal, “I heard you make three disparaging remarks about the principal in the hall today.  When you speak publicly about the principal your comments have a negative effect on morale, are disrespectful, and make it more difficult for the administrative team to effectively manage the building.  In the future you are to refrain from making these types of comments or I will have no choice but to mark you down on your evaluation.”

With the “why” gone you can focus on and correct the behavior. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Teacher Sends 8000 Texts to Student Lover

Call me a prude but I don't like 1 to 1 electronic communication between students and teachers.  I suppose that there could be some value but I think the dangers far outweigh any advantage.  Here's a case in point, The Modesto Bee reported that teacher, James Hooker in Modesto California has quit his job and left his family to move in with his 18-year-old student.  During the course of their courtship, Hooker sent over 8000 text messages to student/true love.
8000.  That’s a staggering number.  Think about the amount of time someone would have to dedicate to a task to do it 8000 times.

Most of us are appalled by this.  But we really should not be surprised. When teachers foster private relationships with students whether through text, email or face to face nothing good happens.  Students reveal too much, teachers become too familiar.  Hooker believes he has found true love. 
Reminds me of the scene from Election …. “But we’re in love!”
A teacher should never be looking for love in the classroom.  Not a friend, not a confidant, not a drinking buddy.  The teacher should only find students in the classroom.  If Hooker and Jordan Powers are to be believed, the relationship started normally when class started in September (?) but evolved as the year went on.  With the number of text-messages sent between the two how could it not?
Here are a couple of take-aways for teachers and administrators:
-     Never collect or allow teachers to collect private phone numbers from students;

-     When using email, send only group emails.  If you must send a confidential email to  a student – cc an administrator or parent;

-     Safely text students by using a service like  This service allows students and parents to opt in to the class text list.  Teachers never see student phone numbers;

-     Follow-up on rumors.  Someone in the building knew that Hooker was developing a relationship with Powers.  They may have ignored or explained away the signs but someone knew.

Photo Credit: Modesto Bee, Debbie Noda

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Pinterest: Educators Proceed With Caution

Pinterest Logo


I’ve been hearing a lot lately about Pinterest.  For those who don’t know Pinterest is the latest social media site that allows users to ‘pin’ sites, articles and pictures of interest to a virtual bulletin board for others to see and browse.

The site has great potential for educators.  Imagine collecting web resources for a student project and rather than handing out reams of paper with a list of sites you simply directed students to your Pinterest board.  Quick and easy, no wasted time navigating, no search engines, no misspelled URLs.  A class Pinterest board would quickly become a valued tool and time saver.

I don’t have a Pinterest board but checked out the site in anticipation of principals and teachers calling to see if the site was appropriate for classroom use (I’m kind of the go-to guy for social media).  The landing page looked good.  A bit busy for my taste but nothing that would get a teacher in trouble.  Then I checked out the ‘popular’ pages.  Again busy but no worries.  The education page had a great collection of sites and ideas for teachers.  If you’re interested in a nice primer on Pinterest and worthwhile edu-boards check out Richard Byrne’s article at Free Technology for Teachers.

Then it happened.  I clicked on the ‘photography’ category and right there above the fold was a picture of a topless girl with the caption naked teenagers scrawled underneath.  Can you say big red flag?  To make sure it wasn’t a fluke I went back to Pinterest tonight and topless girl was gone but in her place was a completely naked girl taking a chocolate bath – yes, I mean that literally. The big red flag was replaced by a big flashing red light.

So for now my advice to principals and teachers on Pineterest will be, “Proceed with caution.”  I never like for educators to be in a position where they have to defend the indefensible.  Trying to explain to the mother of a 14 year old why you sent her son to a site with naked women prominently displayed is not something you want to do.   So unless you’re sure you can keep students from wandering on the site – find another resource.

By the way … I do use a posting site called  Which will allow you to post to a bulletin board but without the wandering eyes risk.. You can check out my board here.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...