California Educator

October 2014

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Perspectives Point/Counterpoint NO I've had "friend requests" from students and former students, and my rule is to turn them down until they're 18. I'm an elementary teacher, and my students shouldn't be on Facebook to begin with, but some of them are. I don't think every- thing I have to share on Facebook is appropriate for kids. I worry about giving the wrong impression to parents on Facebook. It could lead to too many discussions that I don't want to have with a class full of 8-year-olds or their parents. I think there are boundary issues. When I'm posting about the places I'm going or the things I'm doing with family, it's for me and my friends. I try to keep my work life and personal life sepa- rate; otherwise I see it as blending or blurring the boundaries. I don't want my students following me around electronically. My Facebook account is set to private. When I get a "friend" request from a student, I delete it. I try to pretend it never happened. If they ask me about it I say I don't take friend requests from students. I've heard that it can cause problems, and I don't want to be called into the HR office. Sometimes I'll post political things, and I don't want to discuss my political views with students or their parents. I know there are teachers who use Facebook effectively as a communication tool with students. But that's not a road I choose to travel. Some teachers have a separate Facebook account for communicating with their students, but I don't want to have a separate one. I maintain a Face- book account for my local association and that's enough effort. I've definitely made sure that my privacy settings are dialed in. I have some groups of friends that I post to and some that are excluded from certain posts. Yes, I've had to put some of my friends in "Facebook jail" and I show things to everyone except them. It seems to keep me out of trouble. I could do the same for students, but again, I choose not to. DWIGHT YOUNG, Teachers Association of Lancaster, teaches third grade at Miller Elementary School. YES All of the kids in my class are on social media. I reach them faster and get a reply faster if I communicate with them on social media. It's also helpful when reaching out to parents. More parents check their Facebook account before they answer the phone in this day and age. Yes, I worry about boundaries. As teachers we are role models in the community – not just in the classroom. Perhaps I'm not your average Face- book user, but I won't post anything I wouldn't want my pastor to see. I'm a science teacher, and Facebook is an ef- fective tool for learning. I post video clips, quotes and different science news that I may not be able to print. I can post information for kids who are visual learners and reach them. Maybe not everyone understands the lesson, and if I post it on Facebook, some of my students get it. My kids appreciate that I communicate with them this way. It works both ways; I also benefit. I receive feedback from students immediately on my les- sons, and they can communicate things they may not want to say in class. For example, students may tell me on Facebook, "I understood the les- son," but they aren't courageous enough to say it out loud in class because their friends may make fun of them for being smart. Facebook can tell you important things about students, and sometimes you will need to report things to officials if you become aware that certain behaviors are taking place. For example, a student might post something about being mistreated at home, and you can use that information to help save their life. There are many different blocks you can set so that student "friends" are blocked from other friends. It's important to set some boundaries to avoid mixing student friends with personal friends. The way I see it, Facebook is the modern way of communication. By being friends with students I let them know what's appropriate and what isn't. That will help them understand how to use social media professionally in the future. TIFFANI NEAL, United Teachers of Richmond, teaches at LoVonya DeJean Middle School. What should you do when those "friend" requests come in from students? Some educators believe you should never accept them, because "friending" students on Facebook violates the boundaries of appropriate teacher- student relationships and could cause problems down the road. Others believe refusing to interact on social networks with students is the equivalent of burying your head in the sand when it comes to relevant communication in the digital age. We asked two CTA members with differing views on the subject to post their thoughts. Is it OK to 'Friend' Students on Facebook? Educators are encouraged to monitor online accounts and to keep all communications professional. 24

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