Students and Teachers on Facebook – Part II

If you haven’t read Part I go here first ====> Part I

RE: Students friending Teachers on Facebook:

More of your comments:

From a former HNHS’er.  I think it depends on how you use your fb. I share personal thoughts and frustrations and its important that students see you as a stern professional that has power over you to be able to have that student behave. It was always different with band because you do spend quality time with them on band trips and experience highs and lows with them. This makes it to you closer with them and get to know them on a more personal level. But as a regular teacher, school should be the only time you see them and talk with them. I think its important for teachers to have personal time away from students and questions. Nothing is so important it can’t wait until tomorrow. Friending a teacher after you are no longer a student is the best option.

From a friend.  I asked a teacher in Texas about their school’s outlook on this and she said when they are hired they are told they are not to befriend students on FB. They do not want any liability issues. I can see their point with teachers having relationships that are inappropriate with students. FYI.

From a former student.    For the current students who friend teachers for updates on sports, band, etc., this is easily solved: Pages. The teacher/coach can create a Facebook Page for the team/ensemble and students can become Fans, thus receiving the updates. This …has three benefits: you are able to avoid friending the teacher (and this touchy subject), the students can still get this information via Facebook, and to top it off, it’s concentrated and all of the information is in one place for reference. There is no need to sort through personal posts to get to the information you’re looking for.

To be honest, I sat here for a while trying to think about any reason why a student would need to friend a teacher on FB other than to get information, and I came up with nothing. Why do students need to be friends with their teachers? By being friends on Facebook, it creates the possibility to blur the line between teacher and student from something that should be professional to something that is casual, and that’s dangerous. It’s very easy to let something slip in such a casual location as Facebook that could be disastrous to the teacher and/or the student, and I can’t see why it’s worth the risk. What do students gain from being Friends on Facebook with their teachers and vice versa besides information, which is easily dealt with as I suggested above.

The job of the teacher is to give knowledge to students, and that makes the students trust the teacher’s judgment (if they like the teacher; if they didn’t, this isn’t an issue anyway because they won’t friend them on Facebook). When it comes to personal posts on Facebook, teachers can say something they might not even think about but might impact a student greatly, for better or for worse. Such topics might include politics, religion, another person, etc.

Facebook isn’t the ideal place for teachers to communicate with students, anyway. Parents can’t always monitor it. With a simple tweak of the privacy settings, students can prevent their parents from seeing their posts or correspondence on Facebook. Parents can’t be parents on Facebook – they’re just another friend. Obviously, there are concerns with students meeting with teachers, but not nearly as many as there are with students friending teachers on Facebook. If students need to meet with teachers, they should do it in person, in the classroom, where anyone can walk by and look into the window, and thus the conversation can be monitored. Where is that window on Facebook? There isn’t one. A teacher can Message a student, and vice versa, and no one is able to monitor that interaction. It’s very, very dangerous.

Of course, this all applies to current teachers. Once a student graduates, the teacher is no longer in that role and thus the issue changes. But a teacher is a teacher, and as someone on Facebook said, there’s plenty of impact a teacher can have on a student during classtime. If the teacher wants to provide information to students via Facebook, the safest and best option is to create a Page for the group. Then this whole topic is avoided and everyone is happy 🙂

Just my $0.02.

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Thanks for those responses. As for the “stern professional with power” …. I’m glad you made a distinction between a classroom academic-only type teacher and a band director who is much more involved. I don’t want students to obey my every command out of fear and trembling…. no, I want them to trust me enough to know that I would not ask them to do something that wasn’t for the good of the band, if not also good for the individual…. and to believe that I can see a bigger picture than they can. I want cooperation based on respect and trust. My first principal used to tell me to “wait three weeks into the school year to smile”. Seriously. Those who know me know how impossible that is for me.

As for the schools in Texas, I would abide by a school edict, and I really do understand the logic….. I just think it is flawed as I hope to explain below…

And, as for that $.02 response, I must say I am not surprised…. you have always been both thorough — and opinionated….and I mean that as a compliment. I never had to worry about whether you were holding back. I like the ‘pages’ idea. The band has a blog site similar to that approach. I’m not sure pages were a big option (or maybe I just didn’t know about them) when I started using facebook. You are correct about the potential to blur the line and move from professional to casual … but I’d like to think that I can be BOTH professional and casual. I am not casual as in “best bud” kinda casual….. but I want to be casual enough that any student can be comfortable coming to me about ANYTHING…. whether band, school, whatever. I think you slightly contradict yourself when you say the job of the teacher is to give information and thus gain the student’s trust. I don’t think it works that way. As an information provider, the teacher can gain the student’s appreciation of the expertise, and if that is the goal, then that is the way to go. I want more…

Here’s the beginning of Part II

Facebook is but one communication tool. Is the risk with facebook or with communication and interaction? If we outlaw facebook-type conncections (I would prefer they call them something like ‘connections’ vs ‘friends’ just because of the connotation that ‘friendship’ implies), then we should also prohibit texting or calling a cell phone. Many educational professionals feel that way. But then, if a cell phone is bad, isn’t a home phone just as bad? That may be why so many teachers have unlisted home phone numbers. And, of course, if messenging, texting and calling are bad, so is email, right? Continue down that path and conclude that students should only talk to teachers during the official day so that teachers aren’t interacting with students on personal time. Oh, and that interaction should never be one on one….that would be dangerous, by this argument. Someone would have to coordinate witnesses.

In fact, if we take all this lack of communication to the extreme, we create a safer, but sterile environment in which the teacher becomes nothing more than the transmitter of knowledge and the student is simply the receiver. That would be the most safe, but would it be effective? And is that what we really want?

Acceptable risk.

I keep hearing about the risks and the danger. There is risk getting in my car. I’d be safer just staying home. But I try to be careful and cautions, not only of my driving based on experience, but also of other people’s driving…and most of the time, I can travel without incident. Next week I’ll be getting on several airplanes. Why would I want to do that with the risk of terrorism, flocks of birds, storms and mechanical failure.

There is risk in a teacher/student one on one conversation in the hallway before or after class. There is risk for a music teacher in a private lesson setting. There is risk that the conductor’s baton will slip out of his hand. Just this week a student killed an asst. principal who had just suspended him for driving his car on the school’s football field. Do we discontinue all discipline to be safe?

There is some risk in the teaching profession and also in surviving teenage-ness, but I believe the risks I take are worth the results I believe I achieve.

The bottom line for acceptable risk is to drive carefully and defensively — and GET SOMEWHERE!

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To be continued….. next post will talk about Mentoring (using results-oriented examples from my past)

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