Should teachers and students be ‘friends’ on social networking sites?
Classroom 2.0 Discussion
I notice this morning another class member has tried to ‘friend’ me on Facebook. I’ll probably add her to my limited list. She is nine so I don’t think I will see too many drunken parties on her wall. She will see none on mine. This is a shy girl who contacts me through our school email accounts, Ning Network, Twitter and wiki discussions. I think in almost every case she has simply said, ‘hi’.
There is a great deal of concern over the propriety of having contact with students outside of the classroom. Documented, open contacts on popular social networking sites are compared to clandestine chat rooms and shady encounters in discrete locations. This is not the case. What is really being debated I think is an erosion of privacy in our professional lives.
I am a product of my generation of teachers. When I began teaching in rural Saskatchewan in the 1980’s I was reluctant to enter the local bar or be seen leaving the liquor store. My life was so private that I was finally called into the principal’s office where I was confronted by a school trustee who apologetically confided that there were rumors I had a private drinking problem. I was surprised. The community was more relaxed about teacher behavior than I thought. I became more open about myself. I enjoyed the staff parties until I had one of those likely all too familiar moments when a drunken colleague decided that it was time to have a frank discussion with our administrator. After that I was back to discretion. We talk about teaching our five hours and needing to return to privacy; keep things separate. Facebook is a billboard beside the freeway folks. Nothing you do there is private and the world tags you. You’re in the mall so if you decide to share a tantrum with your three year old be aware someone not so very close to you is watching. As soon as I open my browser I am out in public.
I’m a product of my environment. How small was your town? My town was so small the main drag was a transvestite. My town was so small the local bar was the town’s only restaurant so if you went out for a drink your fourteen year old student might be at the next table with his parents scarfing chips and gravy chased with a coke. You really have only once choice in that circumstance: be a responsible adult.