Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Facebook : To Add Students Or Not?

FFacebook poses a special problem for teachers... from my point of view.  The advantages are many and multifarious but so are the diadvantages.

As usual, the most nagging headache would be TMI or in full, Too Much Information.  Especially information about personal things.  Information is always good unless interpreted in a way not expected or not wanted.  As a teacher, I most especially do NOT want this, when it comes to students.

Allow me to illustrate.  And I shall use the example best known to myself : Me.

By default, I tend to be relaxed, sometimes flippant, almost jolly most times :).  But I knew I couldn't be 'relaxed, flippant, jolly' at work.  It was practically an imperative at my first posting : SM La Salle.  The boys in La Salle were a motley bunch; mostly rambunctious, mostly interested in earning some certification but mostly in need of rigid supervision and monitoring.  You can't monitor boys very effectively with only smiles and sugar.  I'd like to meet anyone who has tried and succeeded. 

So, over the years, I learned to 'compartmentalize'.  In class, I was more strict and, according to my cousin Wesley, I had a 'scary face'.  Outside, I would be more friendly but still kept a distance.  But outside school, I would be myself.  And this worked very well for me.  The students who were related to me found it a bit weird at first but, after a while, adjusted.  Wesley used to play with me a game of 'I jump off the stairs and you catch me' but at school, he ran away from me. 

Facebook, however, blurs all the demarcation lines.  My Facebook wall used to reflect the default me more than the professional me.  But, when students started adding me (it took a year or two before I added them), I began to censor my comments.  But I couldn't censor friends and cousins' comments, could I?  So I restricted the students' access.  Why add them in the first place, one might ask?  Well, at first I only added them after they left school.  But some came back for Form Six.  After a while, I got muddled up as to who was still in school and who had left.  And those who left had brothers and sisters in school anyway.  So I gave up and added them, but restricted their views and access.

But now I'm not quite sure what access they have.  This Mark Zuckerberg keeps messing with the settings.  Sigh. 

My dilemma is : I don't want to 'unfriend' all my ex students and students.  Some of them have become good friends and some still keep in touch with me.  But some I hardly know and some I know a bit of...

Again, what are the criteria for unfriending students and keeping them?

The problem for me is this.  I like things to be clearcut in my dealings with my students.  And in the classroom, I mean BUSINESS.  With caps.  But some kids don't seem to be able to handle the difference between the Teacher Roslyn and the Facebook person Roslyn.  Some try to interact with me as the person they see on Facebook.  But when I'm on school grounds, I am unable to switch out of Teacher mode and into Friend mode.  It sounds funny, doesn't it?  But don't get me wrong, I am not a total martinet in the classroom.  Just ask my ex students :)

Maybe it's a non-issue.  Sigh, I don't know.


hobbit1964 said...

If you have always been honest and open in your approach towards people, then I have a feeling that the same will help you with how you deal with your students adding you as a friend on facebook.

A student who really treasures your friendship will in fact, draw his/her lines well before the space where you have drawn yours. Should a student cross said line, then the repercussions are what is coming to him.

We say in the air force, that between officers and other ranks, we should "be friendly but not familiar", to the better functionality of the unit as a whole.

I have loads and loads of people who forward friend requests, and even with those whom I know, I do not approve if I see that we will not be interacting as friends on fb. If we had not spoken chummily when we were face to face as colleagues or coursemates, I am not inspired to see authenticity in the sudden and spontaneous deepening of the relationship on the arid pages of fb.

Some others yet are total strangers and after scanning their profiles, I decide along similar grounds as with people whom I have encountered or become acquainted with.

I guess it's a question of what you want this friendship to be years down the line. Quality then, or quantity?

Rahmah said...

i made the same 'mistake' of accepting too many students and now i too have to censor what i want to say. i can't be the real me..and i hate that. i think teachers shouldn't accept students as friends. i'm also beginning to hesitate accepting friends in the workplace. i mean u don't want everyone to know everything about u yes? well, there are pros and cons as u said..