From educational to sensational

BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon - The Freeman

In a report by The Philippine STAR yesterday, Vice President Sara Duterte, who is also the concurrent Education secretary, said her department will not penalize the teacher who went live on the popular social media platform TikTok, showing the teacher scolding her students.

Duterte said she had already seen the video and was satisfied with the teacher's explanation about it, adding that “while emotions got the better of the teacher, she did not see any mean intention on the teacher’s part.” The report did not mention whether the teacher received a reprimand, but a reprimand itself is a penalty which can go into the teacher’s record, and the vice president already stated that no penalty will be imposed on the erring teacher.

I believe Duterte missed the point by not penalizing the teacher with even just a symbolic “slap on the wrist”, so to speak. While the teacher's act of giving her students a stern scolding (which they probably deserved) could be somewhat forgiven --considering the frustration of handling a large class where students can sometimes misbehave-- it still calls for a reprimand or warning on such a slip in professionalism.

This is something I always remind my media and information literacy students: we should exercise prudence in using social media, especially if it does not serve any useful purpose. A professional, like a teacher who is looked up to by her students, doing a TikTok live to show herself scolding the students --that’s the bigger mistake that the Department of Education missed in calling out for a penalty.

We call out our youth for spending so much time on social media either in narcissistic clout-chasing or in mindless scrolling to get that dose of dopamine-induced pleasure, yet we do not give at least a warning to teachers who use the platform irresponsibly.

If you need to scold your students, do it in the old-fashioned way that they receive with either a grudging nod or silent respect, not in a manner showcased on TikTok. For what purpose? To announce to the whole world your frustration and your views on the youth today? What kind of respect from your students will such showmanship, lacking in substance and finesse, garner?

Again, it was not the act of scolding per se that was really concerning. It was the narcissistic motivation behind the teacher’s actions on social media. What we should be calling out is the act of drawing attention to oneself on social media in an apparent attempt to make a controversial or sensational video go viral. The teacher’s act was driven by personal ego, not by any educational or disciplinary objectives.

Aha, and now I understand why the teacher did not even receive a reprimand or warning. As they say, “birds of the same feather are, err... the same birds.” A similar attitude is actually prevalent among her superiors and high officials in government.

TikTok is a popular short-video app that allows users to create videos up to 10 minutes long. The platform, with billions of users, has grown into a space where micro-celebrities and advertisers earn money and where people engage with entertainment and daily life. (Vizcaíno-Verdú, 2023) Ideally, TitTok and other social media platforms could have been an opportunity for educators to share knowledge through interactive learning experiences. However, many teachers have also become sucked into the dopamine-inducing allure of social media, an almost irresistible temptation to focus on self-promotion.

We need to take a closer look at the moral makeup of our educators, who are supposed to play a critical role in shaping the minds and attitudes of our youth. Teachers, traditionally seen as models of integrity and knowledge, now face an environment of constant temptation to engage in this performative culture of social media, which is a departure from their core values.

TikTok is full of examples of individuals, including teachers, seeking validation or attention through viral content, as seen in this controversy of a public school teacher in Metro Manila scolding her students on TikTok. Imagine the confusion this brings to students, who are themselves navigating the complexities of online identity and ethics.

This is not to shun altogether personality-driven creative content on social media. Professor Arantxa Vizcaíno-Verdú (2023), in her research paper “TeachTok: Teachers of TikTok, micro-celebrification, and fun learning communities,” states that TikTok can serve as a fitting platform for developing teacher micro-celebrities, whose identities are shaped through their empathetic, resilient, and storytelling dynamics that extend beyond simple self-branding.

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