Working in New York City a teacher can turn to the New York Post on almost any day and read about the exploits of teacher/student affairs in horror. Always wondering “how” or “why” do these things happen? Knowing the students I work with closely, I can understand, but don’t condone the blurring of the lines in this delicate relationship.
How does a teacher still maintain boundaries?
Traditionally, teachers conveyed knowledge to students for them to learn keeping their own lives as far from the table as possible. Personal lives and situations were definitely not fodder for classroom discussion. However, in a world where we’ve moved online and share our intimate thoughts as status updates on Facebook and Twitter, how does a teacher still maintain the boundary?
I have over 1200 “friends” on Facebook. Many of them are current students and former students as well as parents and colleagues. I eagerly accept friend requests while sorting them neatly into my specialized limited groups. Students know that if I do accept them as a friend (particularly current high school students) they are not seeing “all of me,” but rather just enough.
Students have told me that Facebook has demystified teachers and somehow made them more human. Knowing that their teachers are “real” people when they leave school has made us more relatable in the classroom and also gives us a common ground for connection. For example when I’m teaching my students about context in my English classroom, I explain that I am a different person with different people. I’m not a hypocrite though, I’m merely asserting the need to establish and create boundaries with a variety of people which is an important skill in my life as a working adult. I use my Facebook friend status as a new tool for teaching by modeling. Sure, I’ve posted things that I wish I hadn’t, but I learn from it and I don’t make the mistake again. I show my students how to self-correct and readily apologize for my errors in judgment that as a human being I am likely to make. We are all human and flawed.
The implications of students knowing too much.
Not all educators however, embrace the new technology. Many of my colleagues and administrators worry about the implications of students knowing too much. Many say it is not what they post as that is controllable, but what others in their lives may post. Some older teachers don’t want students to know about what they do in their own lives saying that a student only needs to see them in this one professional role. My principal says that she “fears the phone call from the superintendent stating that line of appropriateness has been crossed.”
Where each of us stands as an educator on this subject is likely to ebb and flow as the technology becomes more a part of the lives of our students. It is clear that we can’t ignore where the world is moving, but need to better educate the students on how to be responsible with how they use these tools. How they represent themselves in the cyber-world will NOT go away even long after they grow out of whatever phase they are in now. Becoming a role model for how to manipulate these mediums for their benefit, may be the route we all need to go by keeping ourselves safe as examples for how it should be done.
What do you think?
The original post, “Teacher role models struggle in a social media world” by Starr Sackstein was originally published on starrsackstein.com