Today there was a post on ‘Pass The Chalk’ by a TFA staffer, Bex Young, entitled ‘6 Things You Need to Know About TFA and Social Media‘. Bex, according to her Twitter profile, manages social media marketing for TFA.
The post begins with a good self-deprecating joke about how this is the place to ‘toe the party line.’ It’s one of those things that must not be true if they’re willing to joke about it. But I still haven’t seen anything but the ‘party line’ yet. It seems to be all staffers, so far, but, to be fair, it has just started.
Then the 6 (really 5 since #1 and #5 are the same thing) ‘things’ are outlined.
The first was to ‘get vocal’ meaning that everyone is encouraged to do it. She gives a few examples of what sort of Tweeting they want to see more of including, and this is pretty bizarre, one from Diane Ravitch. Now Diane Ravitch has said many good things about the TFA corps members. She once even said that if she were just graduating college, she would probably want to do TFA. But still, as she is one of the most outspoken critics of TFA, it is kind of ironic, and, in my opinion, very calculated. It is like TFA is saying “You’re surprised? Why? We just love Diane. Sure we disagree from time to time, but we’re all about getting the best education for the children in this nation.” Perhaps I’m reading too much into it.
#2 is ‘Keep it real’ but always with the reminder “Related, state clearly that your perspectives are in fact your own, and not officially representative of your school, district, Teach For America, or any other entity.” Kind of strange, again. Why do they have to state clearly. Isn’t it pretty much assumed by anyone reading the blog. Does anyone really do that?
#3 is ‘Protect Students and their families’ which is smart to keep kids’ names anonymous.
#4 is ‘Be respectful and pick your battles’ otherwise known as ‘The Gary Rubinstein clause,’ though I do try to be respectful. Maybe I fail at it sometimes, but I really do try to be civil.
#5 was ‘Be Vocal’ again, and reminding us “No matter your opinion or perspective on how to close the achievement gap, you are an important voice in this conversation,” which is a sentiment I like, but I’m still waiting to see a blog that has a different opinion or perspective.
Why repeat a rule? Maybe this was a bit whimsical before the hammer drops on #6.
6) If you’re a teacher: When you joined the corps you signed a district/school contract and the CM Requirements, Policies, and Procedures document. Make sure you are following these guidelines. Specifically, the CMPP includes the AmeriCorps policy, which states: “you may not attempt to influence legislation or participate in or endorse political events or activities while charging time to an AmeriCorps program.”
Ouch. So since you are getting AmeriCorps money as a corps member, you can’t do some things “while charging time to an AmeriCorps program.” Does this mean during working hours at school? Or does this mean that you can’t Tweet “I’m voting for Obama” at 11:00 PM on a Friday night? It is also unclear about what constitutes an ‘attempt to influence legislation’ or what it means to ‘participate in or endorse political events or activities.’ Does this include ed reform policy like Race To The Top?
Maybe I’m reading way too much into this, but I’d like to see some examples of what is OK and not OK with regard to #6. As it reads, it is very unclear and sounds like a huge restriction of freedom of speech. I invite Bex, in the spirit of respectful exchange, to leave a comment on this post clarifying or adding a comment to her own post — oops, sorry, I forgot that they don’t allow comments.
And that last bit wasn’t me being disrespectful. That was just me being funny.