Difficult ethics as a teacher on TikTok

“I don’t want any students in my videos now, absolutely not,” she said, “Whether you have 10 followers or 100,000 followers, a weird person is a weird person who can found you”. Miss P’s students begged to be featured in her video, but she refused to film their faces for safety reasons.

However, Miss P still occasionally records students’ voices. She does a “roses and thorns” activity with her classes once a month, in which each class shares something good and bad about their lives anonymously on a piece of paper; She sometimes reads these notes herself to the whole class on TikToks. If the student’s voice can be heard in the background, Ms. P asks them if they want to remove the voice from the video; She also asked permission from a class before recording.

Although the individual students in the “roses and thorns” video could not be identified, I felt strange when I came across a student for the first time. Should the world know that one student is self-harming and another is addicted to pornography; Shouldn’t this information be kept within the confines of the class? Miss P understands this criticism but says her classroom is a safe space: “You see a little sliver, but the heartbreaking stuff and the conversations we have, I don’t post that.”

Ms. P said that the students themselves often want her to record the activity. “They have so much pride that it’s their roses and thorns on TikToks,” she said. Roses and Thorns is also not a required activity – Miss P has several classes she has never attended, and class members do not have to write anything. Her videos were flooded with supportive comments, such as “You are sure that teacher will make a difference” (14,000 likes) and “I need you at my school” (2,000 likes).

There are some teachers in Ms. P’s school who don’t approve of her TikTok account, but her principal and superintendent do. Like Miss A, Miss P believes schools need to start having clearer conversations with teachers about social media, establishing firm rules about using TikTok.

“There should be lines; you can’t post everything,” Ms. P said. For example, she wishes someone had shown her how to filter comments and warned her to check for identifying details in the video background. “But I think it has good potential,” she added, arguing that TikTok humanizes teachers. “Some students think that when my school day is over, I get under my desk, cover myself with a blanket, and sleep in class,” she said. “I think it’s great to see that the teacher is a person; they have life and character. “

While browsing TikTok teachers, I saw a kid in a polka dot coat clapping to a class rhyme and another group of young students dancing to a Disney song. I watched a teacher list the reasons their kindergarten students were having trouble that week, and I read poetry written by 8th graders. There’s room for debate about the benefits and pitfalls of all of these videos, though it’s not yet known how the students featured in them will feel as they get older.

In April, TikTok overtook Instagram as the most downloaded app of the year; it’s the fifth app ever approached 3.5 billion downloads. As the service continues to grow in popularity, individual organizations must create clear guidelines for their educators. Meanwhile, a new school year has begun — and with it a new wave of TikTok.

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