What the updated GTCS professional guidelines really mean
The General Teaching Council for Scotland has updated its guidance on professional standards for teachers to include conduct in online spaces. Far from the "devil machines" attitudes the mainstream press would have most people believe, the actual document presents a common sense approach to interaction online.
The Scotsman, like many other press and media outlets have done, mixes up social networking, email and other online activity. The guidelines, of course, have a much more carefully worded approach. The subtlety in the text will hopefully not be lost:
"be aware of the potential dangers in being alone with a pupil in a private or isolated situation, using common sense and professional judgement to avoid circumstances which are, or could be, perceived to be of an inappropriate nature. This is also the case in connection with social networking websites, outwith the school/college setting and in subject areas such as music, physical education and drama...
"Exercise extreme caution in connection with contact/web cam internet sites (for example chat rooms, message boards, social networking sites and newsgroups) and avoid inappropriate communication with individuals under 18 or with whom you may be in a position of trust."
Not one teacher would see this as controversial, and not one teacher, hopefully, would see this as an inhibitor to make appropriate use of social networking sites in their personal lives. In the same way a teacher has to take responsibilities in their personal life, when they are out and about on a Friday night, for example, a teacher has to take reasonable care not to be seen to be in an inappropriate communication with a youngster.
Common sense, and not a "warning" so much as a reminder of what teachers have been good at, generally, since at least the term 'profession' was applied to our work.