The world of social media has changed the way we live our lives – and now it’s posing a challenge to the way teachers do their jobs. In particular, those in the education profession are now finding themselves ‘on trial by trolls’ for the way they carry out some of their duties.
The issue has come to the forefront after an angry parent lashed out at his child’s teacher with a scathing status on Facebook. The post – which quickly went viral – was penned by dad Chris Piland after his son’s maths homework was marked as ‘absolutely pathetic’ by his teacher. Sharing an image of the work, he raged: “My son Kamdyn’s teacher has been so rude to him and myself all year he comes home with this and I am beyond frustrated that someone would write this on a child's work such great motivation.”
This type of incident – which happened in the US – is unfortunately quite common in the UK. There’s a growing trend being seen where parents use social media sites to rant about the standard of teaching at their children’s school – whether justified or not.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, outlined this at the organisation’s recent conference in Belfast. She said: “I’ve described it as people being put on trial by trolls.” She then stressed that it was important for parents to know what the proper channels were to vent and raise issues. Ms Keates added: “You don’t hold kangaroo courts or trials by internet or start petitions about people being sacked.”
The aim of highlighting the growing issue of ‘trial by trolls’ wasn’t just to protect teacher wellbeing. Instead, it was to warn parents that they are ‘disempowering’ teachers and in the process limiting their ability to do a good job. Ms Keates argued: “A lot of the pupils have seen the things on social media and can you imagine you’ve got to be in a position of authority with pupils, you’ve got to try and engage them, and what you’ve got on the internet is ‘oh, my parents think you should be sacked’.”
Stay strong! - The trend of ‘trial by trolls’ is still relatively new, but hopefully it will subside now that people are becoming more aware of the problem. In the meantime, as a teacher, you shouldn't feel you need to hide behind your school desks
; stick to your guns and do your best by providing an efficient and productive environment for your pupils to learn – even when up against angry parents.