Mr. Patrick Ledesma, if you are reading this, I am not trying to stalk you. I do read Leading from the Classroom, though, and you have lots of great ideas that inspire my great ideas. Read Mr. Ledesma’s take on this issue by clicking here.
My students tried to engage me in a HUGE debate (bigger because students are drawn to drama) after I announced I was going to be leaving teaching to pursue a different career: whether or not my (eventually) former students could “friend” me on Facebook. My rule was always that my students could “friend” me and call me by my first name as soon as they graduated, but never, ever before. Too much liability. When I left teaching I was on a leave of absence, so technically, I was still an employee of the school, so I wasn’t about to jump into their social networking world until I knew they were out of school, and I knew I would no longer be working for the school.
Now that I am firmly entrenched in a career away from school, and the students who I taught have graduated high school, some of those students have “friended” me, and I have accepted. I don’t say anything online that would surprise them, and I’m not sharing anything that I wouldn’t have said to their faces. My posts must be extremely boring to them, actually – probably making them wonder why they “friended” me in the first place.
I can’t say the same about their posts. The boring part, that is. Lots of swearing, lots of rants (both of which I chalk up to their limited maturity). Sometimes, I just write “awkward,” as in, “you sure you want to be puttin’ that out there?”
I responded to a post on one former student’s post, let’s call her “A,” and so I got notification that other people responded. When I got back to her post, one of her “friends” had used the n-word, very offensively, in a comment. I sat with that for a moment, not sure what to do. Then, I realized that anyone seeing my stuff could, inadvertently, lead to her stuff, which would mean that I might somehow be associated with that word and that comment. Paranoid? Maybe. Protective? You bet. I “messaged” my former student, letting her know that I was going to remove her from my friend list: Hey A – I wanted you to know I deleted you from my friends – not because of you, but because one of your FB friends randomly posted the n-word. I don’t want to see that stuff on the walls of my FB peeps – completely intolerable in my mind. It’s not you, though….I just wanted you to know. My purpose was pretty straight forward – I wanted her to know that if she was going to be associated with me, I wasn’t going to accept that aspect of her or her friend’s personality into my world. Hopefully, she learned that in the adult world, people are going to push her to question these kind of interactions – even if it’s on your Facebook page. Especially if it’s on your Facebook page.
Much of the weirdness/awkwardness around former students being my FB friends has also been coupled with some insights. They are testing the waters at college. They are missing their friends, finding things to do and meeting new friends, or wishing all their friends didn’t go away to college. It’s neat to get insights into their lives. Gotta say, though – some of those “insights” aren’t super flattering, and in some respects, I feel like it’s my role to help them to see that.
Google + is looking better and better: you can keep different sets of “friends” separate, and comments don’t automatically go out to everyone. This is a fantastic social networking tool for teachers. Might not be a bad thing for my former students to look into as well.