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Students Are Not Your Facebook “Friends” August 23, 2010

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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A picture drawn by my student of the two of us. She said she wished she could have two mothers, me being the second. That's way back when I was teaching second grade. That was seven years ago when Facebook wasn't even on my radar. Her likeness of me is uncanny.

I ran across Teachers Asked to “Unfriend” Students on Facebook on MSN about a school district in Florida. Not that I get a lot of Facebook “Friend” requests from students – okay, I’ve had zero. But I do teach third grade. One of my students said his mom said he could go on Facebook when he turned 16, so it’s those who teach the older kids who might find this problematic. The Florida district laid it all out. No Facebook and be careful when emailing cause it could come back to bite you in the b*tt. Please read the link for all the gory details.

I’ve blogged on the danger of Facebook before in Five Ways Facebook Can Get Your Fired. Obviously, the teacher fired recently in Massachusetts didn’t read THAT post. That’s a $92,000 job you hear circling the drain. Glug.

At the end of each school year, I do give my students a notebook with my name and address in it. I offer a 100 percent guarantee that if they write me a letter, I’ll write one back. Maybe two kids take me up on this each year. For the first time, I gave out my email address this year. I was pleasantly surprised to receive weekly updates from one of my students who was vacationing in New England. She had horrible, I repeat, horrible handwriting, so to read her thoughts laid out so coherently was a godsend.

I also gave my email address to a student who moved out of our district last year. Out of the blue she emailed me. She was always mature for her age, but she is all of 12. She emails me maybe once a week. Thank god she’s quit going on about Justin Beiber! Last week she asked if I had any ideas as to what she could buy her 18-year-old sister for her birthday. I replied that since I only had sons, I couldn’t be of much help. My default gift was always dinosaurs and stuff that blows up. But between the back and forth emails, she got the idea to get her sister a charm bracelet. Whew! I always make a point of rereading my emails before I sent them off and imagine that I’m her mother. I want to be appropriate. I do throw in the occasional LOL, When she lamented that her middle school uniform colors were blue and navy blue, I encouraged her to think of Picasso’s Blue Period. She liked that. I tell her to say hello to her mother a lot.

This whole Facebook thing has eroded so many long-standing boundaries. Many of the teachers at my school “Friended” the AP, but I couldn’t bring myself cross that line. Early on, my father told me that I’d lose my job because of my blog, yet two years later, I’ve never had a complaint. Most likely those who disagree don’t bother to comment, but I’m mindful of who’s reading it. It keeps me on my toes.

Finally, anyone on the internet has to remember that whatever you post is on the internet FOREVER. My son posted a picture of himself shirtless (with his 8-pack) several years ago. He was horrified when he found that some site was automatically sending this picture to anyone he emailed – like his grandparents! When you’re online (with a glass of wine) it’s so easy to let your hair down, but as a teacher, you’ve got to remember that you’re a role model 24/7. Rule of thumb – wait 24 hours before hitting that SEND button.


1. Anne - August 23, 2010

Wise words! This is why many teachers blog anonymously.

Ahem….. or so I’ve heard.

Anne – I wanted to blog under my real name, but it was already taken. Now I understand why some people in Asia are naming their kids with .com after the name. It was a bitter pill to swallow. I’m not totally anonymous, but I don’t put my name out there front and center either. Jan


2. Slamdunk - August 23, 2010

Good advice.

Yeah, blogging anonymously has been good enough for me. I use FB mainly for tracking old friends down anyway.

Slamdunk – I had to laugh as Facebook has become my primary way to track down people from my past lives. If you’re not on Facebook – well, you must be dead. Jan


3. Bev from England - August 23, 2010

uh oh that was one hard lesson learnt for that teacher….thats a LOT of money not to be earning any more ….

u certainly do have to be aware something u put on line could be there forever….however not everything is….i used to write a blog a few years ago but something happened to the host (no clue what now) but the blogs were all lost to oblivion 😦 ….and some things u can delete of course but u do need to be careful indeed.

how sweet do the kiddies in ur class sound? bless


Bev – Our students don’t start school till Sept. 14th due to five furlough days stacked up front. I imagine the “kiddies” will sound loud, as there will be more of them what with increased class sizes. 😦

It’s interesting, but even when something is deleted, it’s out there in cyberspace on some hard drive with some server. Criminologists (and lawyers) are resurrecting “deleted” items to make their case. Beware! I’ve got my iPhone set up so I can see the weather in London, though I know that’s a ways from you. Don’t forget to carry an umbrella! Jan


4. Catherine Sherman - August 23, 2010

When I look at the most popular posts on my blog, I see that the more popular posts are those that have little to do with me and my personal life so I may as well have blogged anonymously! I really don’t like writing about my life anyway, (Zzzzzzz) so photographing cats at the animal shelter looking for homes and the life cycle of a Black Swallowtail Butterfly really are some of the more exciting things I do.

Stuff on the internet may be around forever, but I read an article about how difficult it is physically to keep all of these blog bits and other online information intact because of the cost of server farms. They are huge energy hogs. So some day someone may pull the plug, and all of our prose and poetry may dissipate.

Loved the student’s drawing of you! My mother showed me some of the adorable letters and drawings she got from the younger students when she was a subsitute teacher. So sweet!

Cathy – Dang! I better download all my prose and poetry to assemble a coffee table book while it’s still up there. Yes, I save many of the drawings the students give me – the one posted was from the first year I taught. She also did one of her standing between her mother and me. I’ve trained my students to always draw me younger and skinner than I really am. LOL. Jan


5. Bev from England - August 23, 2010

oooh i forgot to say how much i loved the drawing….knew it was u imediately…i love kids pics where theyre good enough to see what it is but still beautifully child like !

No im not near london but its poured for most of the day….wonderfully dark n atmospheric and just my kinda day 😀

its maybe a good thing my blog was lost to ‘wherever’ as it was written when my life was v up and down ( N years ) and in fact i maybe only needed to write 2 or 3 of the blogs n copy and pasted them over and over as i went thro good and bad times courtesy of N….

enjoy the rest of ur time off !



6. Nora Dunn - September 1, 2010

I performed in a show this summer hosted by an old friend of mine in Chicago. Most of his audience had been developed by the host’s facebook page and they all considered themselves personal friends of his. These folks really believed that the host was their real friend, and one of them actually expressed the the happiest day of her life was when the host friended her on facebook. Because I was a guest on the show, many of these folks automatically made the assumption they were also my friends. Wait a minute! I’m a professional performer and I’ve performed long enough, and made mistakes enough, to know – your audience members, regardless of how much they think they are, are not your actual friends. I got several requests after appearing on my friend’s show and did not permit any of them to join my inner facebook circle. I have under 100 “friends” on facebook, and ditto for my flesh and blood pals. And I intend to keep it that way.

Nora – Who could have imagined we’d be talking about virtual strangers who want to “friend” us? I had one woman who sent me a friend request. I sent a message back asking who she was. She was sure we’d met. I finally realized my only connection to her was that I bought a pair of belly dancing shoes from her. And she still wanted to be my “friend!” When I see people with an astronomical number of friends, I figure they’re using it for self promotion, or they’re cat hoarders with no cats. It’s the internet equivalent to hunting and gathering. I’m just glad I made it into your inner circle. Jan


7. chelsea - September 8, 2010

My 8-year-old wants a FaceBook account SOOOO BAD! No Way! She does have an email account though. She began emailing her teacher in 1st grade. She went to Montessori School where expressing your needs was very important…especially when the work you were given was too easy, hard, or already mastered…My daughter was overly concerned about disturbing the teacher as she always looked busy and never got her needs met…email was a life changer…she began emailing her teacher questions that she had…including that she was ready for her spelling test and could she change her “share” day…This year she transfered to public school…third grade…and has really come a long way. She is letting her teachers know her concerns and …lol even emailed them once…I hope that they don’t find it disrespectful, but for some students email is a wonderful way to communicate without having to look you in the eye! And I don’t believe that it is a crutch – more of a ramp to get you started…I love your Blog!

Chelsea – Thanks so much! >blush< I have to admit I've been hesitant to give out my email address to students/parents during the school year for fear that I'll get a barrage of emails about lost homework or concerns about whatever drama occurred at recess. That said, I do give out my email to some parents as the year goes on, as it's my preferred means of communication. Your daughter sounds very thoughtful, but I might suggest that you ask the teacher if she's okay with the emails. I only say this because after a long day, it's nice to take off the teacher hat and enjoy civilian life. 🙂 Jan


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