A few years ago, I became the ultimate Me Monster and started a Facey Face page for Mrs. Mimi.(That’s Facebook for most of you…thank you Rebecca, my internet BFF, for the genius term “Facey Face”.) I love me some Facey Face. Talk about the ultimate tool for Procrastination. I also have my own personal Facebook page that I use for virtual eavesdropping – seriously, people post some insane stuff as a status update. While I don’t always understand why we need to know you had a flat tire on the highway today, I usually find these updates to be pretty entertaining and/or a great distraction from my pile of work.
However, due to some really poor decision making, Facebook has meant the end of some teachers’ careers. I know some peeps are on the up and up when they friend current or former students – they want to stay in touch and hear how former friends are flourishing. I get it. Buuuuutttt….methinks it’s a slippery slope and pretty much a bad idea.
My recent dilemma:
Several former students from The Best Class Any Teacher Has Ever Had EVER friend requested (is that really a verb now?) on Facebook recently. I LOVED these kids. LOVED. Like take them home and keep them forever love. I wanted to friend them (seriously, I can’t believe I’m repeatedly using “friend” as a verb), I wanted to see their pics, read their statuses, make sure they were okay and being responsible consumers of social media, but there was something holding me back from clicking “accept.” A feeling in the pit of my stomach, kind of like when I eat too many wings…
I didn’t accept their request. But for the next few days, the whole thing bothered me. Am I virtually rejecting them? They were so important to me and I’d like to think I was important to them, important enough to friend request at least for whatever that’s worth. All that being said, I still didn’t want them to have access to a picture of me with a glass of wine or see something that someone wrote on my wall that may stray from appropriate. These kids are still not adults. Clearly The Mimi is cool and hip and all that with social media, but this territory feels foreign with my little friends.
I know some teachers have separate Facebook accounts for their teacher selves that they tightly control, but frankly, I don’t need another social outlet or alternative self to monitor. So what did I do? I accepted their friend request to get access to their email address. I sent them an email explaining why I felt uncomfortable being friends with them on Facebook and gave them my personal email address so that we could stay in touch. Then I promptly unfriended (defriended?) them. I’m so hoping they’ll email.
I think there are so many possibilities to use various social media and other online resources in our classrooms. Actually, I think there is a NEED to do that, so we can create and develop responsible and digitally literate little friends. (Granted, this means having computers in your classroom that are NOT loaded with Logo Turtle and, you know, actually turn on.) And I’m someone who embraces these tools for my work with adults, but with kids….I go back to having that too-many-wings feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Maybe this is a topic we can take on as a little community. Discuss and share ways to incorporate these new tools rather than shun them. Think about how we can set up ground rules that not only make these tools truly useful, but also teach our friends how to be critical users as well. I know there are some of you out there who don’t have enough pencils, books or even desks…so what do we do? How do we move forward and stay current?
Helen's Book Blog
I have had this same issue and really feel uncomfortable with past and present students as "friends" on FB. Remember, they can see what our friends post and some people who post on my FB wall have no common sense/filter!
I really like your idea of friending, sending them a message with personal contact information and then defriending. Excellent idea!
I got a friend request from a student who was in my first class who is now in 5th grade…I sent her a message saying that my FB is for my grownup friends but that she was more than welcome to email me on my personal email…she never did. If a student was older (out of high school) I think that it's not really an issue because that means that after many many years, they still remember you as a great teacher and want to keep in touch, but if the kid is still in elementary school or even middle/high school, I would say no (with a note/explanation like I did with my little friend). Do you ever look up students' parents on FB?? Funny stuff!
You always give me good "thunkin" material… I am not sure what to say about this topic yet, but wanted to thank you for helping me get my think on! If I have something of actual value to say, I will be back. 🙂
Edmodo is like Facebook for teachers to use with their students. I've used that! 🙂
I keep all my students on a Facebook list and then adjust my privacy setting so people on that list can't see much. That way I can spy on THEM but they can't spy on ME.
I can see your dilemma. I choose to only use Facebook for my family and friends. I sometimes am even careful about who I friend since my brother and many other friends are gay and may not want to be outed to others on my Facebook.
However, I do friend my former students after they are no longer in my class, but I taught high school until 2001 and then college since 2009. I also tell my students up front in class that I will not friend them until they graduate. They seem okay with this and it creates a good space for discussion about what to share and what not to share on social media.
My 2 cents worth!
Tuscaloosa, AL USA
No need to "friend" then "unfriend" them on FB. Just send them a message through the FB system (you can message folks you are not friends with).
I have a policy…no FB friends that are not at least 18 AND out of high school. Not even relatives.
I feel your pain. I taught older students and absolutely do not "friend" them until they are completely totally gone from our school district. It's kind of like a right of passage into adulthood, you get to be my friend. But you also get unfriended with a motherly worded message the minute there is a bad word or drink or drugs referred to on your page. I don't friend the uncool.
Did you hear about what's currently happening in Missouri? Teacher-student or teacher-FORMER student facebook friendships are becoming illegal. I think it's absolutely ridiculous. Does that mean that, as a teacher myself, who worked at my alma mater for the first two years of my career I wouldn't be allowed to friend my colleagues because some of them were my former teachers?
I used to use Facebook, but I would NEVER friend students. I teach high school and it just made me really uncomfortable. I use Twitter to communicate with them about assignments and I have a Google docs folder with handouts. I am interested in this Edmodo site. I might need to check that out!
Nope. I even have current students as friends on FB. It's a public site. I make sure it's WIDELY known that any non-school-appropriate stuff will be taken to parents and/or administration.
It's rather like the mall. I will absolutely stop and say hi to my students if I see them there. If they're picking on someone, I'll call them out on it – so what if it's not in class? It's still unacceptable. And if it's something serious, I will get security, and I will inform their parents.
& I just make sure that my FB conduct is ok for public consumption.
The new Missouri law (intended to prevent sexual misconduct) outlaws ALL communication between teachers and current/former students unless it is made through school services. It is just a BIT ridiculous. While I understand the reasoning, it goes too far. I have colleagues who have to unfriend their nieces and nephews- or even their own children- because they attend school in the district. It also means that coaches can't text/call a student to let them know that practice has changed because the weather changed. I can't see why we can't just EMBRACE technology, which students are going to use anyways, instead of avoiding it like a deadly disease!
Agree. No FB friending until they're out of school. I think it muddles the line between authority figure and student and that's why it gives you that "funny feeling". Most students think we live at school and aren't actual humans anyway so we might as well keep perpetuating that perception!
Kelly (She Wears a Red Sox Cap)
My oldest students are going into 5th grade now so I know I will have to deal with this in a few years. I think when it comes up I may make a new facebook page for my teacher self. I think it will be fun to look at their pictures and let them look at very nicely screened pictures of me haha.
I have a teacher FB page and love it because I can stay in touch with former students and be there for them. I only check it when I get a notification or if I want to post something, so it's not a burden. I post reading updates during the summer with what I've been reading. Once students graduate from high school, they can friend my personal page.
The Missouri law sounds ripe for legal challenge it's so ridiculous.
I don't friend any person under the age of 18 (except for my own kids). It's my personal page with my friends and family and I think it's good to keep some things private. I use other means to communicate with my students and their parents (blog, email, E-Board). I haven't really considered a "teacher" FB page because it is just one more thing to keep up….though I do sometimes stalk my middleschoolers on their pages (and then we have a chat about internet safety!). Plus I refuse to friend parents of students – no one else needs to see my drunk pics!
I am still trying to decide how I feel about this topic, and find everyone's opinions very interesting. So far, it seems to me like creating a "Teacher Identity" FB page is the best idea. Why do kids or their parents need to see your personal page, full of private and personal things about yourself, friends, and family? To me, just like you wear your "Professional Face" to work, you should wear it online as well. Private life and relationships are sort of sacred, and not something for your students to gawk at. At the same time, I think teacher/authority figure presents online and on FB are important. We (ideally) don't like our kids run loose around the city without any adult supervision, so I don't think they should be "loose" online without any either. It's good to have some adult eyes on the content of their FB pages. Just like Clix said, if they were at the mall fighting we would step in, cyber bulling should be the same. Not to mention them having some positive models out there for appropriate internet conduct.
I've been pondering this same thing for a few years. I taught middle school the last few years and received several friend requests from my students and past students. I've always denied them, but like you said, I feel a bit bad that I am denying them because they were such great kids and I don't want them to take it personally. That said, I would never want a student as a "friend" on FB. I've deleted anything remotely questionable from my profile (I was in college when FB came out, after all!), but still… who knows what someone else could post?
This summer, for the first time, I had a few parents friend request me. Awkward. I denied those, as well. I have some awesome parents at my school, but I definitely don't want them to know I had a glass of wine (or two) on a Tuesday night (not that I'd post that…but you know). I feel like as a teacher, especially one that looks young, I need to uphold a squeaky clean image.
Mrs. Lopac Teaches…
I'm a high school teacher, and I also previously had a lot of the same doubts and fears about friending students on facebook. I had requests last year, and denied them.
This year I was more proactive. I created a teacher facebook(with Mizs as my first name), offered extra credit for friending me, and actively found my students and friended them.
It really became a whole new way to communicate with students. I let them know when to study, and due dates. I get the hype about the lesson the next day(A post ex. "Tomorrow? Yo mama jokes and hyperbole…be there!") I have students posting questions on my facebook, completing extra credit work, asking me to watch their videos etc.
And now I created a "Junior Senate" fb group where students can talk about and vote on things like prom theme, how to decorate our hallway, how to do photography at the prom.
And the activity has blown up. I frequently have more than 10 likes on my statuses, students talking to each other on my fb, even joking around with each other(sometimes the comments on a single update can be over 100)
And it gives me a chance to talk with them on their level and guide their thinking, stick up for the kid who they're making fun of, and push them to do their best.
Sometimes you just can't get a chance to grab a kid to talk to them alone about something. So when I've been wondering why a student is not in school, worried because their friend just died in a gang shooting, or just want to tell them privately that I'm proud of the great job you're doing, I've messaged them on facebook.
I thought it would be a good idea, but it has gone way beyond my wildest dreams as far as how much more I can play a part in my students lives. And I know that there's people who may fear that I'm one of the like .0001% that are sexually involved with students, but I know that THIS is being a good teacher. THIS is what I needed to be able to individually reach every one of my many students(Some of my most shy students in class are outgoing on fb). And THIS is what they're going to remember 10 years from now….sadly, not hyperbole.