Here is my list of the top 5 most important things that happen behind the scenes for new Texas teachers as the school year begins!
5. Bloodborne Pathogens
If you are a teacher of any sort, you’ve probably heard this term more than you care to admit. Basically, we review a PowerPoint that talks about proper procedures to follow in case a student is injured and there is an open wound. It’s actually really helpful and very informative but can seem repetitive as we talk about it EVERY YEAR. I don’t take it for granted, though. I had a student accidentally cut themselves with an X-Acto knife, and because I knew how to handle the situation and had a plan of action, there was no panic and everything turned out fine. Panic in your classroom is the WORST, so avoid it at all costs.
4. Acceptable Use
This is really important for teachers and students alike! Learning how to properly use images and information from the internet, or materials created by other teachers, is a MUST. How can we hold our students accountable for plagiarism if we aren’t aware of laws that protect our students’ privacy or prevent copyright infringement in our profession? As an art teacher, this is especially significant in this day in age where artists sometimes “borrow” ideas or completely steal other artists’ work. Did anyone hear about the recent scandal over someone re-selling Instagram images? This actually becomes a great way to teach students about who owns a photograph or a work of art, and copyright laws. They need to understand the difference between being inspired by someone’s work and just plain stealing.
3. Social Networking Awareness
It’s sad to say, but many people, including educators, have a hard time drawing the line with personal social media and social media used for educational purposes. I never allow students to “friend” me on personal social media, and I make sure I use the highest privacy settings. Also, just because you have your privacy settings set doesn’t mean friends of friends can’t see what you post, so I make it a habit to never write negative comments or discuss issues concerning school on those sites. If I have a concern, I go directly to the source and have a conversation to find a resolution. I do have an Instagram account for my classroom as a way to interact with students and have them participate in challenges, but I never follow students’ personal accounts. This is just a way to keep my dealings with students on social media professional and educational.
2. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
This ties in with #3, Social Networking Awareness. Basically, FERPA is a law that governs what student information the school can post, including photos in the yearbook or posts on social media during special events or programs, like an orchestra concert or basketball game. It’s also EXTREMELY important for my art students. If they don’t have the appropriate signed release forms on file, then I am unable to display their artwork in any art shows in the district. So, even if their piece is top notch, it will never be seen by anyone else (including on the designated Instagram account). I have actually hunted students down and highlighted where their parents need to sign. What can I say? I am serious about my students receiving recognition for their work! Be sure you know your district’s policies and understand what forms are required where you teach.
And my #1 behind the scenes task for the new school year is ..... *DRUMROLL*
1. TEACHER LIABILITY INSURANCE!
When you walk into a classroom, you MUST have liability insurance! No one ever told me about this in college, and it wasn’t until the week before my first school year that another teacher mentioned it to me. You need to understand your rights as a teacher. You need liability protection that will cover you in a wide variety of situations. If you aren’t a member of an organization that offers liability insurance benefits, and you teach in Texas, let me invite you to join ATPE. They offer access to the best liability coverage I’ve seen! Their website has a whole list of benefits and other helpful information. Check it out here. Not only do they protect my rights but they also advocate for Texas public education at the Capitol. That, in my opinion, is pretty amazing! While I haven’t had to use their services yet, I have a friend who was an ATPE member and who was being bullied by an administrator without reason. She called ATPE and an attorney responded right away to help resolve the situation. THEY KNOW EDUCATION LAW, and they really care about the well-being of educators. I love knowing I have their support.
I hope this helped you out, especially if you are a first-year teacher. If you have any comments, please feel free to leave a note below!
Did I miss anything? If you had a top 5 list of things that go on behind the scenes as you start a new school year, what would they be?
Alex Alkire teaches for Irving ISD writes the blog, “Come to the Art Side.” Check it out!
Views and opinions expressed in guest posts are those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of ATPE. The above post does not constitute legal advice and may not be relied upon in legal situations. Consult an attorney as appropriate. Eligibility, terms, and conditions apply. Visit ATPE for more information. The staff attorney services and insured benefits are provided through separate programs.