by Guest Author
Every school year brings a mix of optimism, anticipation, and perhaps a bit of trepidation. Regardless of one’s years in education, amid the familiarity and routine, there can be new rules, procedures, and workplace policies to navigate, in addition to new families to meet, new technologies to learn, and curriculum changes to incorporate into lesson plans.
Throughout the school year, educators have a massive amount of work to do. Here are some tips to help your year go smoothly and to avoid potential pitfalls before they escalate into a workplace concern.
- Social Media: it is always recommended that educators limit their social media footprint to a minimum. Keep your accounts private, be very careful what you post and do not add students or parents on your social media accounts. Never post anything about students or work situations.
- Interactions Outside of Work: be mindful of your location and conduct particularly if you are at an establishment or place of business students frequent. While generally your private time is yours to enjoy as you see fit, conduct outside of work can at times lead to disciplinary issues.
- School Parties/Classroom Rewards/Recognition: all classroom parties should be completely inclusive and never offered as a reward, which would allow parents or guardians to argue a student was unfairly excluded. The same is true for classroom rewards/recognition. Be sure to pick objective goals for students to meet to earn rewards. This forecloses any argument by parents or guardians that you personally are singling out or treating students differently.
- School Field Trips: do not travel with students without another adult and always use district approved vehicles to transport students. If the field trip is overnight, make sure another adult is always present with you in hotel rooms or other areas where students are present.
- Nicknames – Coworkers and Students: should always be avoided. Even if used in jest or during a friendly exchange, it could later result in a complaint. Arguing after the fact that a nickname was ok to use at the time because “we were friends” or “we were just joking” will do little to avoid discipline if the nickname is offensive, hurtful or violates school policy.
- Policies and Procedures: should be reviewed at least annually, before the start of every school year and throughout. This is true even if you read them at the time of hire. Disciplinary matters almost always include violations of written policies and making sure you are familiar with those policies will work to your benefit.
We hope you continue to have a wonderful, safe, and fulfilling year. To find out more, visit joinaae.org
Sharon Nelson is the senior director of legal services for the Association of American Educators. In this capacity, Ms. Nelson oversees AAE’s Legal Services team and works daily with members and panel counsel to address members’ legal concerns. A passionate advocate for educators, Ms. Nelson has been a lawyer focusing on employee rights issues for more than twenty years.