Teachers Friending Students on Facebook: No Way!

Sasha Brown-Worsham
21

The lyrics to Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher" have a whole lot of extra meaning in the digital age.

Teachers and students together on Facebook is a recipe for disaster and one school in Norton, Massachusetts believes that so strongly that they have enacted a policy around it.

The school has banned teachers from "friending" their students on personal accounts.

Tom Golota, a school board member, said the ban is designed to maintain a divide between teachers' professional and private lives and send a message that becoming too friendly with students is not acceptable.We want to head it off at the pass, Golata said. Teachers know this already, but we wanted to have something official on the books.

This has been a hot discussion topic among my friends, many of whom are teachers and who keep a very low (Facebook) profile.

Suddenly, my teacher friends were reverting to their maiden names (or taking their married names) while others were avoiding Facebook altogether "because of my students," one teacher told me. "It is just too weird."Meanwhile, others were conversing with very young people on their walls who called them "Mrs. So and So..."

So, what is the "right" answer?

Clearly in Norton, Massachusetts, the answer is: just say no. But the line is blurry. I think back on the college friendships I had with my professors and it is sad to think I would not have been allowed to "friend" them. But high school is different and for many, it is a line that should not be crossed.

Last month, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees stressed the"importance of maintaining proper decorum in the online, digital world,'' in their meeting and also enacted a policy encouraging school superintendents to "periodically conduct Internet searches to see if teachers have posted inappropriate materials online,'' and discipline violators.

Ouch.

"Friending" your teacher is apparently something that some students do on Facebook and it is a great way to show students that teachers a "hip" or with it and some teachers use it to communicate with students outside of class, sending assignments and materials.

According to the Boston Globe:

Some teachers have used Facebook to communicate with their classes as a whole and show parents what they are studying.

On the other hand, teachers are people, too and no high school student needs to see Mrs. Smith's photos from Halloween her sophomore year at Brown where she dressed as a Playboy bunny or Mr. Brown's bachelor party photos.

Better to just keep the two separate. That delineation is important in terms of classroom behavior and discipline. Besides, boundaries are just good.

If teachers want to communicate online with students, they can set up a website or use their work e-mail. There are many, many ways to forge close relationships without entering the social quagmire that is Facebook.

Norton has the right idea with this one and more schools will likely follow suit.

Do you think teachers and students should be Facebook "friends"?

 

Image via Facebook

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