Why I’m Networking Offline


Canter-c120x148Formerly a teacher, now an administrator-in-training, Chris Canter blogs about his yearlong assistant principal internship at Fulton County Public Schools in Atlanta, Ga. Canter was a 2010 ASCD OYEA honoree.

In these times of increased technology and social networking, there are many outlets for communication. A key question I’ve been forced to consider this year is: which are appropriate and desirable for my personal and professional development? The school leader walks a very fine line when addressing these issues. While administrators definitely desire and deserve personal liberties, we must remember that we are leaders and public servants 24 hours a day, not just during the hours the schoolhouse is open.

And that’s why I closed my Facebook account.

Although I did have privacy controls and the ability to control who was connected with me, I found that the lack of control over those individuals’ pages left me open to criticism. When perusing the pages of my connections, I found many comments and pictures on their pages that were unbecoming of a public servant. While I did not make these comments, my association with them had the potential to cast me in a negative light and call my integrity to question. Thus, I discontinued my subscription.

This past year, rather, has been one of making offline connections and working closely with my immediate personal network. My small network of principals and assistant principals with whom I have worked is a very supportive safety net. Although I’ve had access to many influential people within my school system, I haven’t focused on trying to sustain superficial relationships that could advance my career. Rather, I’ve chosen to focus on those that can increase my knowledge and personal growth. It is from this group of people that I can share laughter, tears, and fears. Even in the midst of uncertainties, I can call upon my network of colleagues for encouragement, support, and a dose of reality.

What networks do you rely on most? Are certain social networks better suited for school leadership?

[Ed. Note: Head to The Big Think and What Ed Said for an argument in favor of educators using a particular online social network, Twitter.]