Teachers should not have to give up their personal lives just because they work with children, according to a teacher writing in this week’s TES.
But teachers' public profile does mean that they have to accept some restraints on their behaviour and may need to come clean about past indiscretions, even when they predate a career in the classroom.
Writing in this week’s edition, Lisa Jarmin, who teaches in north-west England, says teachers can put their careers at risk by indulging in behaviour that reflects badly on their school.
The danger is magnified because teachers are under constant scrutiny – and not just from their managers or pupils.
“For a certain breed of parent, there is nothing more enjoyable than possessing some prize gossip about a teacher at their child’s school,” she says. “Being a teacher is a bit like being a celebrity: every move is scrutinised and then exaggerated; wild speculation quickly becomes fact as stories enter the playground news machine.”
And while it may be tempting to dismiss playground stories as harmless rumour, the reality is that they could cost a teacher their job. Social media may have increased the risk that indiscretions will be exposed to public view, but Ms Jarmin says it is unreasonable to expect teachers to be whiter than white.
“I would suggest that this is not possible, and that we shouldn’t be forced to forfeit a personal life for the sake of our students, or anyone else,” she writes.
According to solicitor Matthew Wolton, a specialist in education law, confessing to behaviour that would be embarrassing if it were uncovered can help to mitigate its effects.
“Think about the likelihood of past indiscretions coming out and, if necessary, disclose anything that you are concerned about when you are offered a job at a school,” he says.
Ms Jarmin suggests that teachers present themselves as clean-living, get their online privacy settings right, think before they act, stay on the right side of the law and avoid parents as much as possible when outside school.
“If we do all this, we should be able to behave exactly as we wish in our own time,” she says.
Read more in the 6 February edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents.
Heads 'trawl' web for bad behaviour – 27 January 2011
Out? Not if you want to lead a Catholic school – 2 February 2013