Teachers and students being friends on Facebook might sound like something that can be a good idea if it is done correctly. Before I started student teaching, I imagined setting up a special Mrs. Holton account where I could post notes with homework reminders, encourage my students to play word games, and in general keep them thinking about English class when they were only trying to like their friend’s latest status. My idea might have been pleasant, but it was not practical.
Students and teachers should not be Facebook friends. It sounds innocent enough, but such behavior blurs personal and professional lines that teachers especially can not afford to blur. It is difficult to control what other people write on your Facebook wall. Students don’t want to be held responsible for a friend writing “Mr. So-N-so is EVIL.” Teachers don’t want to be held responsible for a college roommate questioning if the glass in that picture really has water in it.
If the personal and professional lines are blurred some people will not be able to keep them separate any more. One of my professors in college was accused of taking points off a student’s paper for spelling mistakes she made on his Facebook profile. This sounds like a silly accusation, and it was certainly unfounded. All the same, the Professor had to deal with the aftermath. This was a college student, so both parties involved were adults. Things get even murkier when the students are still minors.
I think it is natural for teachers to want students to see them as real people. Teachers are not robotic beings that live in a school house, and they should no longer be seen in this light. It is perfectly okay to tell your students you enjoy going to the beach. That does not mean they should see beach photos of you. Even if your swimsuit is modest and respectable, it is certainly not business attire.
Some people may think that I am over reacting based on a handful of personal experiences. Unfortunately, a quick Google search will give you hundreds of results of articles about teachers who have behaved inappropriately on Facebook. Keep your social networking lives at least semi private while there is a teacher/student repertoire at stake. If teachers really want to friend their students, there might be a time and place for that after graduation.