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Virginia Journal of Education

Your Classroom

Be Very, Very Careful
in Cyberspace

As an educator, you are entitled to enjoy a personal life outside of school and to express your opinions in person and online. That said, because you work with children and young adults and are seen as a role model in the community, you are held to high standards regarding your public behavior and online activities. Here’s a little advice:

Social networking websites
. The opportunity for self-expression on the Internet is limitless. Countless websites, including MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and Live Journal, provide interactive networks complete with user profiles, photos, blogs, chat rooms, videos, e-mail, bulletin boards, text messaging and even voice telephony (i.e., live talk).

What you say in cyberspace – about yourself, about your job, about your beliefs, about your activities – is easy for others to find and read. In an increasingly digital world, the line between what is public and what is private, between your professional life and your personal life, is no longer clear.

If you create your own Web page or post comments in cyberspace, remember your role as a teacher or school staff member. Yes, you are entitled to have a private life away from school. Still, your off-duty conduct can affect your job security. Anyone can browse your personal Web page or your blog. Websites such as cannot guarantee your privacy or your anonymity. Posted comments are public comments. You may intend your posts to be for your own personal community of friends, but you are also speaking, in effect, to everyone in the school community, including administrators, parents and students. Even if you have set your page to “private,” people with access to it can download pictures or comments and forward them to others via e-mail. Stay in bounds!

Remember: You are speaking publicly when you enter your viewpoints into the digital world. Many employers search the Internet for employee postings. Students can find your statements. On the Internet, the line between your professional world and your private world can be hard to draw. Think before you post!

E-mail tips. Electronic communication with students and parents is increasingly a part of the educator’s job. Whether you are e-mailing during the day on the school network or from home after the school day, your e-mail correspondence should remain respectful, courteous, professional, to-the-point, clear and unambiguous.

Think before you send—e-mail is permanent (once sent, it’s not easily deleted); easily duplicated; and not private (on a school network, your e-mail is easy to access).

Internet use. Most educators have Internet access on the job, so your online activities must always be above reproach and appropriate to your role at school. The computer as an instructional tool has vast application and potential. By contrast, using a school computer to pursue personal interests may or may not be permitted in your school division. If it is, do so wisely and cautiously.

Where We Need Help
Each year, Virginia’s General Assembly requires the state’s Department of Education to file a report on critical teaching shortage areas in Virginia. Here are the 10 areas that were of greatest need for the 2007-08 school year:

1. Special education (speech and language disorders; learning disabilities; emotional disturbance; mental retardation; early childhood special education; visual impairment; hearing impairment; severe disabilities)
2. Elementary education, preK-6
3. Mathematics, 6-12
4. Middle grades, 6-8
5. Career and technical education
6. Foreign languages (Spanish and French, preK-12)
7. Health and physical education, preK-12
8. English, 6-12
9. English as a second language, preK-12
10.  School counselor, preK-12

See the World on a
Fulbright Exchange

The U.S. Department of State-sponsored Fulbright Teacher Exchange arranges direct, one-to-one international exchanges to numerous countries for K-12 teachers in all subject areas. The program involves a year, semester or six-week exchange with a counterpart in another country who teaches the same subject at the same level. The application deadline for the 2009-10 school year is October 15, 2008. For more information, visit

Contest Gives Students
Chance to Honor Veterans

To honor the service of our nation’s men and women in uniform, the Paralyzed Veterans of America is holding its fifth annual national poster and essay contest for students in grades 1-8. This year’s theme is “Veterans: Thank You for Your Service,” and offers young people an opportunity to hone their skills while expressing their thanks for the contributions of our veterans.

The poster contest is for students in grades 1-4 and will be separated into two categories for judging: 1-2 and 3-4. Likewise, the essay contest is open to students in grades 5-8 and will be divided into 5-6 and 7-8.

Grand prize winners will receive an expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for Veterans Day. For details, visit

Parent Center Offers
Help for Families

Since 1978, the Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC) has offered a variety of resources, primarily but not exclusively, for families in Virginia with children with disabilities. PEATC’s mission is to help families find their way through the education and social service systems, effectively communicate their child’s needs, manage the many tasks facing families, and hone advocacy skills.

To find guidance for families on such topics as special education, No Child Left Behind, school-to-adult transitions, literacy, parent/school communication, inclusion and cultural competency, visit the Center’s website at

PEATC offers training and has offices in Northern Virginia and Richmond, along with teams around the state.

Contest Encourages Students to ‘Think
Outside the Bubble’

The National Museum of Education and the Sealed Air Corporation are looking for America’s next great young inventor—and interested students will get to try to invent something using a material they’ll enjoy tinkering with: bubble wrap. It’s the Bubble Wrap Competition for Young Inventors and it’s a chance for students in grades 5-8 to show how creative they can be in coming up with an invention that incorporates the use of bubble wrap.

Prizes, including a tip to New York City and U.S. savings bonds, are up for grabs, and the sponsoring teacher can also win a $500 gift card.

For more information on the contest, visit the National Museum of Education’s website at Deadline for entries is November 3, 2008.



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