Seriously, I told myself I would not get involved. I would not join the multitudes of people who jumped on the social networking bandwagon. I took great pride in lasting far longer than most, but on a dark and stormy summer’s night, with nothing else better to do, I created a makeshift profile and attached a mugshot. Much to my delight, people past and present started reappearing in my life. Hm. maybe this is not such a bad thing after all!
But then something else transpired. As an educator, I had just somewhat exposed myself to the masses. I became a social profile and page, available to whoever decided to look me up. I felt as vulnerable as a streaker, parading across a soccer field in front of thousands. Except there were no security guards to take me down. Students, past and present, started “hitting me up,” so to speak. Even students that did everything in their power to make my life a venerable nightmare had suddenly become interested in “making nice.” I would have to become my own police.
But why is it important that a middle school educator not “friend” their students? Well, consider me paranoid if you must. Perhaps I am a victim of watching one too many news reports on TV. You know, the ones that slander educators and demand justice if a teacher so much as blinks in a socially incorrect way. True, some teachers create their own bed of deceit and deserve just punishment. Some take things too far in regards to profane relationships with their students. I am strictly of the belief that a teacher and a present student can be “friends” only in an academic sense. Being friendly and friends needs to remain as two different things. Why would educators set themselves up for speculation regarding a student / teacher relationship outside the classroom atmosphere?
And picture this scenario: A teacher “friends” a student on Facebook. Later, the student ends up disliking the same teacher over a grade he or she received. Or a warning for chewing gum in class. Or a reprimand for being late. Or whatever. When it comes to middle and high school students, emotions run volatile. And with this volatility comes a possible resentment. How could my “friended” teacher on Facebook had been so callous to give me a referral? Trouble abounds and a student can start spreading rumors. “I talk to this teacher on Facebook. He or she said injurious things to me. He or she discussed illicit suggestions to me.”
Paranoia? Perhaps, dear reader. And probably 99% of the students I currently have the distinct pleasure in educating would never cross such a dastardly line. But as a male teacher who has seen one too many of my teaching brethren put under the microscope (some with definite reason, others not) playing the part of a buddy-buddy just seems like a fools game.
I knock knuckles Howie Mandel-style with my students as they slog to the buses on a Friday afternoon. I joke with them about the New York Giants crushing loss the week prior. I “nod them into class” every morning. But “friending” on Facebook? Let it be. When a student is graduated from high school, has joined the ranks of the adult society, and become a distant memory, maybe then one can reconsider. Police yourself wisely.