boundaries of the school building. I
don’t view the digital environment
of Facebook as all that different from
other public spaces. I behave professionally at school, at the mall, or online. I realize that Facebook is a public
space, and my postings and those that
I allow on my page are professional.
This would be the case even if I did not
It’s true that the students do not
always understand the public nature
of social networking sites. But then
isn’t it a benefit when an adult whom
they respect models appropriate behavior? I think social networking sites
are great avenues by which educators
might provide guidance.
I originally got started with Facebook when I was asked (actually
begged) by my son, who had just gone
off to college. I was absolutely thrilled
that he wanted to keep in touch with
me, and I jumped at the chance to
We can’t effectively teach them until we can reach them,
and as long as we have digital accents, we are impeded.
keep up with what was going on in
his life. When students want to friend
me, I feel similarly complimented
that they wish to share their lives with
me. They enjoy it when I wish them
a happy birthday or make a comment about how nice they look in the
prom pictures they post. I make these
same kinds of comments in person
at school, too. It’s just another way of
connecting with them.
Some may see this behavior as
inappropriately “hanging out” with
students, but if that is the case, then I
guess I’m “hanging out” with them at
school, too. I take every opportunity
to make connections with them. They
still know that I am the adult, and
they respect that.
There was a time when teachers
could be fired for smoking or drink-
ing (on their personal time, no less),
and I’m sure there have been a host
of other such rules governing the
behavior of educators over the years.
Today we would find these restrictions
The times, my friends, have done
what they always do; they have
changed. This is a digital age, and
our students are digital natives, while
most of us, the educators, are digital
immigrants. We can’t effectively teach
them until we can reach them, and as
long as we have digital accents, we are
Marsha Redd has been involved with technology
for the past 25 years, first in the business world
and then in education. She is currently a library
media specialist for Kelloggsville Public Schools
in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
I’ve struggled with how much to let
my students know about my personal
life. If I let them, they would spend
hours asking questions about whatever
topic I allowed them to explore. Maybe
I’m just trying to avoid taking all that
time out of my day, but I find that maintaining a respectful classroom where
students know what the expectations
are is the best learning environment
for them. If some of them were my
“friends,” they might feel that deadlines
no longer apply to them, or the established boundary between student and
teacher does not exist for them. This is
where the blurring of the line begins.
I’ve seen it happen.
In an age where teachers have to be
hypersensitive to the relationships we
establish with students, why would we
want to jeopardize our reputations to
have students friend us in the same
way our adult friends do? It’s not appropriate, even if there’s nothing inappropriate about it. Our job is to teach
In an age where teachers have to be hypersensitive to the
relationships we establish with students, why would we want to
jeopardize our reputations to have students friend us in the same
way our adult friends do?
them, engage them, lead them, and
mold them, not “friend” them.
I’ve stayed in touch with hundreds
of students over the years, and the
ease and popularity of Facebook
seems like a tempting way to do that.
But do we really want our students
knowing who our adult friends are
and what they’re doing? I think not.
I might friend a former student who
is now an adult, but not a child, and
definitely not a current student.
In an age of technology, where
blogs and social networking sites
are everywhere, we could easily set
up a more educationally centered
site for networking with students
and former students that is separate
from our adult social networking site.
For example, my district has started
a summer reading networking site
where students and teachers can network and blog about their favorite
books and other academic topics. This
way, the focus is education, but the
discussions could include other appropriate content without any risk of
giving a wrong impression or revealing too much of your personal life. It’s
all about balance.
Jeannine Ortiz has been teaching English language
arts for 15 years. She recently began a master’s
program in educational technology at Long Island
University to become a certified technology specialist. She also recently won a Model Schools Grant.
Want to weigh in on this debate?